Congressman Cohen Votes to Expand Rights for Women in the Workplace

May 14, 2021
Press Release
Secures accommodations and protects workers from workplace abuses such as those uncovered at XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Cohen voted for H.R. 1065, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  This vital bipartisan legislation expands the rights of working women by establishing the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnant workers. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant applicants in hiring, retaliating against workers for requesting accommodation and forcing workers to take paid or unpaid leave if accommodations can be made instead. 

 

Before the vote, Congressman Cohen spoke from the House floor in favor of the bill. In those remarks, he said, in part: 

 

“This meaningful legislation will protect pregnant workers who have suffered because of insufficient workplace protections, a story far too familiar to people in my district in Memphis, TN. 

 

“In 2018, I was shocked to read of the disturbing workplace abuses in an XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis, which was reported in the New York Times. Warehouse workers were denied minor and reasonable accommodations like less taxing workloads and shortened work shifts. These were pregnant workers. As a result, several women suffered miscarriages, some of which happened while they were still on the warehouse floor.   

 

“I, along with Congresswoman DeLauro and ninety-seven of my colleagues, wrote to the Education and Labor Committee to urge the 115th Congress to take decisive action and consider the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. I also participated in the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee hearing on this bill last Congress. 

 

“Many pregnant workers are being forced to choose between maintaining a healthy pregnancy and losing their jobs at a time when both their health and their economic security are crucial. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act  would ensure that pregnant workers get accommodations when they need them without facing discrimination or retaliation in the workplace by putting in place a clear, explicit pregnancy accommodation framework, similar to the accommodation standard that has been in place for decades for workers with disabilities.” 

 

While Congress enacted the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, this law failed to explicitly and affirmatively guarantee the right of pregnant workers to reasonable accommodation.  This has forced many women to put their pregnancy in jeopardy so that they can continue to work – especially during the pandemic, as 64 percent of the workers at the frontlines of the pandemic are women.  This has also disproportionately impacted women of color, who are overrepresented in low-wage, demanding jobs.  When women are denied basic, reasonable accommodations, it can lead to tragic health outcomes. 

 

Similar to the framework of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would close this gap in federal law by requiring public sector employers and private employers with more than fifteen employees to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant job applicants and workers.  These accommodations include the provision of appropriate seating, water breaks, closer parking, flexible hours, appropriately sized uniforms and safety apparel, bathroom breaks and exemptions from strenuous activities.  

   

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