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Protecting Pregnant Workers

May 1, 2024

Pregnant workers, like all workers, deserve to work in safe and healthy workplaces, rid of discrimination. This is the bare minimum. Thankfully, on April 15, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finalized the regulations for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The rules clarify employees’ rights and employers’ duties, giving pregnant workers greater certainty about how to navigate the law’s protections.

As Bryce Covert writes, the PWFA and related regulations cover a scope of pregnant workers’ needs, from ensuring that employers should grant straightforward modifications to opening a new avenue for workers to secure unpaid time off for pregnancy-related needs without risking their jobs. Pregnancy-related needs include the need for time off to recover from childbirth or to get an abortion. The ability to take time is particularly important for the many workers who don’t qualify for the 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which only applies to employers with 50 or more workers. Under the regulations, employers must work in good faith to accommodate those needs.

To be clear, unpaid time off is far from an ideal response to pregnant workers’ needs, but it is a step in the right direction. In the words of Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, “[of] course we want real paid leave,” but access to job-protected unpaid leave can mean “not just financial security or survival but literally life or death.”

We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation join advocates in celebrating the greater clarity brought by the PWFA’s regulations. We also join those same advocates in demanding greater protections for pregnant workers.


Photo of a pregnant person's belly.

A photo of a pregnant person's midsection. They are wearing a denim shirt and have their hands around their belly. (Photo By Camylla Battani)

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