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Pregnant and working? You need to know these new protections.

pregnant young lady working remotely online from home.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires a covered employer to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to a qualified employee’s limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

“Pregnancy is an import issue that affects everyone. It’s a normal part of life and work, and it needs to be treated that way.”

It’s a fact that there have been workers who have been forced to take unpaid leave during pregnancy. It’s a fact that there have been workers who have been fired for absenteeism, due to morning sickness or doctors’ visits. It’s a fact that there have been workers forced to take less pay when they’re denied temporary reassignments while pregnant.

It’s also a fact that new regulations in the form of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, that aim to change that.

Charlotte Burrows, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to detail the new protections.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning, I'm George Prentice. This year, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its final regulations to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. In particular, it is guidance for employers, employees to. Of course, to be sure, on too many occasions in years past, we have heard about workers who have been forced to take unpaid leave during pregnancy or even fired for absenteeism due to morning sickness or a doctor visit. So we need to talk. And here comes Charlotte Burrows. We are honored to have Miss Burrows on the program. She is the chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and this morning she joins us from the nation's capital. Good morning.

CHARLOTTE BURROWS: Good morning. Thanks so much. It's a pleasure to join you.

PRENTICE: Absolutely. Right up top, I think we should talk about where we can go, where workers can go, where employers can go to get details on this. This is online. Yes.

BURROWS: Absolutely. So our website eeoc.gov has a number of resources. Things like fact sheets, videos, tips so that employers and employees can understand what the new law requires. And at bottom it's about making sure that no one is at risk of losing their job or derailing their career simply because they become pregnant or undergo childbirth, or have a related medical condition, and really making sure that the workers who do have those events in their lives can get accommodations to keep them working and having income at those times.

PRENTICE: Can I assume that this act was, well, for lack of a better word, organic in that it it rose from real lives, real situations, real pain in people's and families lives?

BURROWS: That's right. And it's really a testament to just how much it does matter when people raise their voices and point out things that are important in their day to day work lives. So as a result of that, we had and so many women coming forward to talk about what it meant to need to take time off to go to the doctor when they were pregnant and not to be able to or to need something, something simple like a break to sit down and eat or drink water, and being denied those things We saw really overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate at bipartisan majorities, for sure supporting the bill. And I think it was a result of that really sort of groundswell, as well as a lot of business groups and civil rights organizations coming together in support of it.

PRENTICE: And could you just talk a little bit more about that, put a face and a voice to this, because we've heard all kinds of stories. But I also have to assume that this cuts across all classes.

BURROWS: Yes, of course, that's right. And look, the bottom line here is that pregnancy is an important issue that affects everyone. It's a normal part of life and work, and it needs to be treated that way. And unfortunately, that just had not been the case either under law or in practice. So a lot of the things that women were coming forward and talking to Congress about, and there were a number of hearings, um, really were things as simple as needing a break to take water, um, needing to stand up sometimes or sit down when they were pregnant and needing time off to go to the doctor. And those were things that over and over again, you know, some there were some employers, particularly those that were very dependent on shift work, that were just not giving any flexibility. And so the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act or VFA for short, was really passed to make sure that no one has to risk their job or their health just because they're pregnant, recovering from childbirth, or have a related medical condition. It's that simple.

PRENTICE: How does abortion care if it does? How? How might that fit into the PWFA?

BURROWS: Well, to be clear, the, um, PWFA or Pregnant Workers Fairness Act does not in any way require an employer to pay for an abortion or for health care for an abortion. And without getting too far in the details, it is the I think that the way it might most likely come up is if someone has to take leave, and if it is for a miscarriage or an abortion or something like that. That leave can be protected as an accommodation under certain circumstances. But it's really depends on the the situation. For the person that I think leave would be the only way that immediately comes to mind that they would be relevant. But any payment the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act does not require and, um, it will likely only concern leave requests from what we can see right now while.

PRENTICE: We talk about this act. Uh, of course, we always like to talk about access to care. We've been hearing from the March of Dimes that about 30%, nearly a third of all of the counties here in Idaho, are considered to be maternity care deserts. That's another issue as well, because women have to travel and they have to travel good distances for this care.

BURROWS: Yeah, unfortunately, there are many places in the United States, even now where it's tricky to to get care. And so taking a reasonable amount of leave is covered by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act for whatever reason, as long as it's related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. And so that, um, I think will be helpful to a number of pregnant people as time goes forward. And you're right, it does sometimes mean that getting to the doctor takes longer, but it's absolutely essential during a pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy that you are able to get to the doctor on a regular basis.

PRENTICE: Charlotte Burrows is the chair of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in DC. And thank you for this. Great good luck to you, and thanks for giving us some time this morning.

BURROWS: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Find reporter George Prentice @georgepren

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