WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A House committee voted Tuesday to approve an update to a federal law that would make it easier for working women to get temporary accommodations during their pregnancies, but there are still obstacles standing in its way.
“Pregnant workers should not have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and financial stability,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) said.
But Rep. Bonamici, a mother herself, says many pregnant women have to make that difficult choice because their employers won’t meet their temporary needs and there’s no federal law requiring them to.
“When pregnant workers do not have access to the accommodations they need, they are at risk of losing their job, being denied a promotion or not being hired in the first place,” she said.
The bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would guarantee workplace protections for women during their pregnancies like more water breaks or less heavy lifting.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) was an OBGYN for three decades. He supports the accommodations but says discrimination is not common.
“I could not remember a time when I said this patient needs to stop work or stop lifting or whatever and an employer defied that,” he said.
The major sticking point for Roe and his fellow Republicans is including exceptions for religious employers who, for example, may decide to fire women who get pregnant outside of wedlock.
“This very limited provision is already in current law, and it allows religious organizations to make religiously-based employment decisions,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said.
Rep. Foxx tried to include it in the bill. But Democrats like Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) support the legislation without the exception.
“No longer will pregnancy prevent you from taking your dreams as far as they can take you,” Rep. Adams said.
The proposal now heads to the full House for a vote.
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