AAFP Joins Support for Bill to Protect Pregnant Workers

Measure Would Address Maternal Mortality With Workplace Accommodations

November 05, 2019 02:22 pm News Staff

The Academy recently banded with other medical and health care organizations to urge legislators to pass a critically important maternal mortality bill.

[pregnant woman working in warehouse]

In an Oct. 21 letter,(1 page PDF) the AAFP and seven other groups expressed strong support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694),(www.congress.gov) praising the bill as representing "a measured approach to a serious problem."

That problem: Some of the three-quarters of U.S. women who will be pregnant and employed at some point in their lives will, for medical reasons, need to make minor adjustments in how they work; yet many such Americans, the letter said, "face barriers to incorporating even these small changes to their workdays, changes that would help safeguard a healthy pregnancy or prevent harm to a higher-risk pregnancy."

"They are denied simple, no-cost or low-cost, temporary adjustments in their work settings or activities and instead risk being fired or forced to take unpaid leave," the groups wrote. "When that happens, the impact on both mother and baby may be long-lasting and severe."

These temporary adjustments can be as simple as frequent bathroom breaks, opportunities to stay hydrated, lifting restrictions, or a chair or stool that allows an employee who's typically on her feet all day to sit down sometimes.

The Academy's support for the bill dovetails with the work of the AAFP's maternal mortality task force, which was convened in response to a substitute resolution adopted by the 2018 Congress of Delegates to push back against the U.S. maternal mortality rate -- which has become the worst of any industrialized nation.(www.npr.org)

Modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, H.R. 2694 would require employers to provide reasonable, temporary workplace accommodations to pregnant workers, as long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The letter was sent to U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and James Comer, R-Ky. -- the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee. Among the Academy's co-signatories were the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Related AAFP News Coverage
Academy Takes Aim at Maternal Mortality Crisis
Campaign Includes Featured Spot in March for Moms Rally on National Mall

(5/1/2019)

Fresh Perspectives: Our Maternal Mortality Rate Is Shameful
(3/5/2019)

More From AAFP
American Family Physician Editorial: What Family Physicians Can Do to Reduce Maternal Mortality
(10/15/2019)