Muth, Senate Dems Hold Virtual Hearing on Legislation to Better Accommodate Working Pregnant Pennsylvanians

Senator Katie MuthImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

HARRISBURG, PA — State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, recently joined state Sens. Amanda M. Cappelletti (D-Montgomery/Delaware) and Judy Schwank (D-Berks) to host a virtual public hearing on the need for workplace accommodations for pregnant Pennsylvanians.

“Statistics show that women make up about half of the workforce, and working women are the primary or sole breadwinners in 40% of American families. Even still, women face obstacles in the workplace that compromise their ability to provide for their families – including pregnancy discrimination and an employer’s refusal to grant an employee’s reasonable request for temporary, minor accommodations,” Muth said. “Senate Bill 716 is commonsense legislation that would protect pregnant Pennsylvanians and I hope [this] hearing brought attention to these much-needed accommodations in the workplace.”

The Policy Committee heard support from testifiers for Senator Cappelletti’s Senate Bill 716, which makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation, unless doing so would represent an undue hardship to the employer.

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“[This] hearing illustrated how necessary the protections in Senate Bill 716 are for pregnant Pennsylvanians,” Cappelletti said. “Pregnant people should not have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy, especially when small and reasonable changes can be made to accommodate pregnant workers while maintaining a healthy, productive work environment.”

Participants in the hearing included Marianne Fray, CEO, Maternity Care Coalition; Sophia Elliot, Legal Fellow, Women’s Law Project; Kerin Kohler, Social Worker, Women’s Health Center; and Myra Taylor, SEIU member, Registered Nurse, Allegheny General Hospital.

“The problems we face in terms of workplace accommodations for pregnant women aren’t new. As our testifiers highlighted, far too many women face pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, and disproportionately, they tend to be women of color. Denying pregnant women simple, commonsense accommodations can lead to long-term health complications and force women out of the workforce,” Schwank added. “Enacting SB 716 is a long overdue, noncontroversial measure that will no longer force women to choose between their health and a paycheck.”

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Per the bill, some reasonable accommodations include providing periodic rest or a chair for an employee who stands for a long period of time, assistance with heavy lifting, access to drinking water, uncompensated break time and temporary job restructuring. Additionally, the legislation will forbid employers from denying employment opportunities to employees based on their request for accommodations.

“When an employer denies a pregnant person reasonable accommodations — like a break to use the restroom or access to drinking water—the pregnant employee is forced to choose between a paycheck and working in unsafe conditions,” Sophia Elliot, Women’s Law Project, said. “SB 716 ensures that employers protect the safety and advance the equality of a critical and large segment of the workforce, but by the same token this bill does not impose an undue hardship on any employer.”

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Currently, twelve states have passed legislation requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.

“The number of pregnancy discrimination claims filed annually with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been steadily rising for two decades,” Marianne Fray, CEO, Maternity Care Coalition, said. “Pregnancy discrimination affects all birthing people, but disproportionately affects women of color, many of whom are represented in low-income jobs.”

All submitted testimony from the hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy

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