Iowa needs a law that provides straightforward, unmistakable and predictable rules to ensure that reasonable accommodations are available based on individual situations and needs.
Legislation is needed in Iowa to clarify requirements that employers make reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the ordinary operation of the employer’s business—just as employers do for limitations caused by other conditions.
Sixteen states, the District of Columbia and four cities have passed laws that require some level of accommodation for pregnant workers.*
Women make up about half of today’s workforce
Working women are crucial to their families’ and their communities’ economic security. Yet, remaining at work because of an employer’s refusal to provide temporary accommodation may put her own health, as well as her pregnancy, at risk.
- Two-thirds of women who had their first child between 2006-2008 worked during pregnancy. 88 percent of those worked into their last trimester.
- 71 percent of women return to the workforce after pregnancy.
- 41 percent of working mothers were the primary breadwinners in 2010.
Many temporary accommodations sought by pregnant workers are already provided for workers with disabilities and are likely to be low- or no-cost. The data on providing accommodations will have bottom-line benefits to employers, including increased employee commitment and satisfaction, increased recruitment and retention, increased productivity, increased safety, reduced absenteeism and savings in worker’s compensation and other insurance costs.
Iowa and federal law already require employers to provide temporary accommodations to other workers.
Iowa and federal law require employers to provide pregnant workers with the same treatment and benefits— including temporary accommodations—as other workers who are similar in their ability or inability to work. In an important 2013 decision by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the Commission applied Iowa’s Civil Rights Act preventing discrimination in employment due to pregnancy to require that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees unless it would pose an undue hardship to the employer.
Pregnant workers in Iowa need better protections
Courts and employers continue to deny pregnant workers the kinds of job modifications that they routinely offer to other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Given the current state of the law and federal inaction, legislation is needed to codify that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers.
Examples of Reasonable Accommodations:
- Allow the worker to carry a water bottle.
- Provide a stool for workers who stand for long periods.
- Temporarily reassign a pregnant worker to light duty.
- Allow for extra bathroom breaks.
- Accommodate necessary doctors’ appointments.
- Modify schedules to account for morning sickness as needed.
- Modify lifting requirements or provide assistance with heavy lifting tasks.
The Federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Nationally, a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is also needed. It would prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It requires employers to treat pregnant workers the same as other workers who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” We're glad that the U.S. Senator from Iowa, Charles Grassley, is a co-sponsor of this important bipartisan legislation.
Even if the federal law passes, however, there will be some pregnant workers who are not covered by it. Iowa still needs a law that ensures that pregnant women are treated as well in the workplace as workers with disabilities and provides real solutions to pregnant workers who are currently being asked to choose between their health and their livelihood.
Find out more about the Iowa Pregnant Workers Fairness Act here.
* Alaska, California, Central Falls, RI, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York City, NY, New York, North Dakota, Philadelphia, PA, Providence, RI, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia.