Pennsylvania State Reps. Mark Cohen (D-Phila.) and Mark Painter (D-Montgomery) introduced last week a bill that, for the first time in Pennsylvania, would establish a law to make it unlawful “for a covered employer to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions” unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.
Cohen introduced the bill to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or similar related medical conditions.
Cohen’s submission is also part of the Pennsylvania House Women’s Health Caucus’ sweeping “Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health” initiative.
"Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority and wages,” Cohen said. “These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences.”
The legislation – Pennsylvania House Bill 1892 – is an act that promotes women's health and economic security by eliminating discrimination and ensuring reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.
“Today, unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem.
In the majority of cases, the accommodations women need are minor, such as permission to sit periodically, the ability to carry a water bottle, or help lifting heavy objects. Those women who continue working without having these medically-advised accommodations risk their health and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications,” Painter wrote in memo to House colleagues that Painter also attached to HB 1892. “Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority, and wages. These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences.
“The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make it unlawful for a covered entity to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.”
Other bills included in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health address sanitary conditions for nursing mothers; ensuring access to healthcare facilities; pay equity legislation; increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings; equitable protections for domestic violence victims and putting an end to intimate partner harassment – or “revenge porn.”
“The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health represents a genuine cross-section of issues and concerns facing women today. This is a comprehensive collection of bills based on what women want in regard to their own health,” said Women’s Health Caucus Co-Chair State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny). “By addressing these issues, we can help women in the commonwealth live longer, healthier lives. That is the goal."
Caucus co-chair State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-PA 11) concurred, noting the need for a diverse agenda to confront a myriad of issues.
"Our agenda is a diverse one because that reflects the lives Pennsylvania women face every day. Each woman has a different story to tell and issues that must be addressed,” Schwank said. “These issues are not more important because they concern women. They are important because they affect all of us."