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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act starts Tuesday

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Whether it’s fatigue, back aches or having to run to the bathroom a little more than usual, being pregnant certainly comes with its fair share of symptoms. That’s why a new federal law, known as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will expand protections for expecting moms in the workplace. That takes effect, Tuesday.

According to the US census Bureau, 72% of working women will become pregnant while employed at some point in their lives. 30 states already have their own pregnant workers protection laws including New York. “What it says is that employers have to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and postpartum workers who have limitations related to their pregnancy, related to child birth,” said  Sarah Brafman, National Policy Director at A Better Balance. The accommodation includes:

  • Offering additional, longer breaks to eat, drink, rest or use the restroom
  • Changing work schedules to have shorter or more flexible hours
  • Providing leave for medical appointments related to pregnancy
  • Options for temporary transfers

“And what we were seeing is that pregnant and postpartum workers were being pushed off the job because employers really didn’t understand when they needed to accommodate pregnant and postpartum workers. So you had workers that were being forced to choose between keeping their jobs and maintaining a healthy pregnancy,” said Brafman. In her experience, she’s seen pregnant women in physically demanding industries request accommodations such as temporary transfers or light duty, but employers did not know how to handle those requests and instead asked employees to go out on unpaid leave. “And that would put people into a really difficult financial situation, when they wanted and needed to keep working, but with just a small modification,” she explained.

Ryan McCall, an attorney with Tully Rinckey says New York State already protects pregnant employees, but he’s seen pregnant employees in retail positions outside New York not getting the accommodations needed, “So we’re talking about jobs where you’re on your feet all day, you have to be there for a specific period of time … compared to working at a desk job … it’s a little bit easier versus retail… they’re really going to be the workers who are most affected by this.”

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