When Florence, Kentucky police officer Lindy Trishler was pregnant, she requested modified duties from her employer.

“I needed to work in our office instead of working the streets as a patrol officer,” Trischler told HuffPost.

The police department denied his request. Trishler’s only options were to continue patrolling or take unpaid leave which would also void his health insurance.

“My pregnancy was very difficult, and I needed extensive testing because my son had a life-threatening health condition,” Trischler said. The child died soon after birth.

In this terrifying, stressful situation, “the threat of losing my insurance was devastating,” she recalled, and her mental health took a turn for the worse.

“Once it became physically impossible for me to continue working on patrol,” Trischler said, “I lost my income.”

“When we lost our home, my daughter and I had to live with family,” she said.

Denying her housing request meant “I had to risk my health and my son’s health. No mother should have to make that choice.”

What Protections Are Provided by the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act?

The $1.7 billion government funding bill signed by President Joe Biden on December 29 includes the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which provides protections for workers like Trishler who request accommodations during pregnancy.

Under the new law, which will take effect in late June, employers will be required to provide “reasonable” accommodations to employees, as long as they do not present an “undue hardship” to the employer.

For example, in a case like Trishler’s, a transfer of duties to an office is a reasonable request when other employees are allowed such duties. An employer would not be required to create a new position to accommodate the need for a pregnant employee.

Advocates have emphasized the modest nature of the housing that pregnant workers seek.

Sharon Terman, a senior staff attorney legal aid at workgave the following examples of accommodations: “sitting on a stool while working, getting a bigger uniform, taking extra bathroom breaks, avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals, being able to carry a water bottle, avoiding stair climbing, and Getting help with heavy lifting. These modifications are temporary by their nature and are usually very easy for employers to provide.

Jessica Stander, Director of Policy and Deputy Legal Director equal rights advocateOne of the organizations that lobbied for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act told HuffPost, “We’ve seen this really troubling trend that when a pregnant person — usually a woman — goes to her employer that’s often a very When the minimum accommodation request is made, the employer often essentially denies the request outright without engaging in any dialogue to determine whether it is reasonable and feasible.

Under the new law, pregnant workers will have a recourse in such situations.

Candice Branner, who worked as a transportation security officer at San Francisco International Airport when she was pregnant, approached her supervisor with a doctor’s note requesting a modification of her duties that required her to bend, lift or limited need to stand for long periods of time. Branner also requested the use of a car to get around the airport.

“I was sent home that day,” Branner told HuffPost. “I never went back to work.”

She explained, “It wasn’t really a dialogue, or ‘come in and let’s talk about it’ or anything like that. It was like, one day I was at the airport and the next day I was gone.”

Branner said the loss of paid work came as a shock during a lean time.

“We were two young people working. To go to work in person – you have these plans, because our baby was planned, and something is messing up our plans. It was a very scary moment. an uncertain moment. I suffered a lot, just being at home, depressed, things like that.

California has a law that protects pregnant employees from being denied reasonable accommodation and thus forced to take unpaid leave, and Branner and 41 other women $450,000 settlement won from their employer in March 2021.

Terman said her organization has “advised and represented numerous pregnant workers seeking accommodations under California’s pregnancy accommodation law.”

Thirty other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws, as do four cities. Now the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will bring this protection to workers across the country.

“Workers’ rights should never be determined by zip code,” Stender said.

How is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act different from preexisting laws?

Advocates say previous federal law provided protections against pregnancy discrimination and some accommodations for disability but was insufficient to meet the needs of pregnant workers.

Stander said that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prevented pregnant people from discrimination in hiring decisions, “an important first step”. Yet its language regarding housing made it challenging for pregnant workers to find housing.

“Under the PDA, in order to be entitled to an accommodation, a pregnant worker must demonstrate that other employees who are not pregnant but have a similar ability or inability to work receive accommodations at their workplace,” Terman said. explained.

If a pregnant worker asks to be relieved of heavy-lifting duties, they should be able to point to another worker who was relieved of heavy-lifting duties because of an injury, for example. Yet many employees are not in a position to go looking for such comparisons, and the result is that employers often deny requests for pregnancy accommodation without result.

“Before the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, two-thirds of pregnant workers were losing their Pregnancy Discrimination Act claims in federal court,” said Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President a better balanceA non-profit advocacy organization.

This was also after the Supreme Court case, Young v. UPS, Seen setting an example in favor of workers’ rights.

“Having this affirmative right written directly into law is a really important development to make sure that workers actually get these accommodations,” Stander said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides a model for making reasonable accommodations to employees, but it does not cover accommodations for routine (non-disabled) pregnancy.

“Health care providers often advise people with completely normal pregnancies to take appropriate measures to protect their health, such as sitting when possible, taking extra breaks, or avoiding hazardous tasks or toxins at work,” Terman explained.

When the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes into effect at the end of June, it will provide these types of protections for all pregnant people.

“It’s been a 10-year battle to get these basic protections in place,” Stander told HuffPost.

The legislation was introduced in every congressional session since 2011. It was passed by the House in May 2021 and was included as an amendment to the recent government spending bill.

“The fact that it has taken this long,” Stander said, “is really indicative of the lack of importance placed on women in the workforce.”

The law, Terman said, “is especially important for low-wage workers and pregnant people of color, who are more likely to work in low-wage industries and have physically demanding jobs, and who are often less likely to be healthy.” are forced to choose between pregnancy and the maintenance of their livelihood.”

Police Officer Trishler said, “What happened to me was not an isolated incident.” The passage of the law “ensures that no one will have to go through the struggle that I went through just to obtain modest housing.”

The $1.7 billion government spending bill also includes the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which expands the pool of workers who are entitled to time off during work hours to express breast milk. The act also extends the length of time that employers must offer this accommodation from one year to two years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics Breastfeeding. guidelines, which were revised in June 2022 to recommend that children nurse “for 2 years or longer until mutually desired by mother and child”. Previous AAP guidelines recommended nursing for one year or longer.

How do I get workplace accommodation?

If you are pregnant or nursing and need a modification to your job, such as a change in schedule to accommodate morning sickness or breaks to pump breast milk, you can talk to your human resources department or your union representative. May be able to get help.

Even though the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act doesn’t go into effect until the end of June, many employers, knowing they will soon need to comply with the new law, are encouraged to provide accommodations to pregnant or lactating workers. Could

If you need more help than your workplace can offer, you can contact one of the organizations described in this article: legal aid at work , equal rights advocate And a better balance, There are also other organizations that may be able to help: National Partnership for Women and Families, legal speed And this National Women’s Law Center,

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