Bill seeks to give pregnant women workplace protections

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A Republican congressman from Michigan is sponsoring a bill he says would protect pregnant women from potential discrimination by employers.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced the legislation Wednesday in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that pregnant workers may sue over a denial of accommodations afforded to workers with disabilities.

“It’s important to ensure women are provided the same protections for pregnancy, just as they are for other health issues,” said Walberg, who chairs a House panel on workforce protections.

“Unfortunately, the law has been unclear on this issue, but our bill will affirm the intended treatment under the (Pregnancy Discrimination Act) and empower families and working moms-to-be nationwide.”

In her lawsuit, United Parcel Service Inc. driver Peggy Young cited a section of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act that says employers must treat pregnant employees the same as others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young argued that because UPS did accommodate some employees who were similarly situated, it must offer her the same treatment.

Walberg’s bill would require employers to treat pregnant women the same as other job applicants or current employees in positions performed under similar conditions who are not pregnant but “similar in their temporary ability.”

The bill differs from a measure offered by Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and barring firms from forcing workers to take leave if they can be reasonably accommodated.