Woman-friendly legislation and some gay marriage support all in the same week? Am I still living in the same country?! Hopefully, because my optimism meter is actually starting to look less empty. This week, Democratic representatives introduced legislation that would actually support pregnant women. And do we ever need it! The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would ensure that preganant women are not refused reasonable job modifications that would allow them to keep their jobs, and would keep them from being forced out of their jobs. Additionally, the bill would bar employers from withholding job opportunities from women based on accommodations needed for “pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions,” according to sponsor Jerrold Nadler, a Congressman from New York. Hooray for anti-discrimination!
Essentially, this bill would mandate that employers make reasonable accomodations pregnant workers require to do their jobs. And when I say reasonable, I really do mean reasonable. Rep. Nadler cites an incident where a woman was fired from her retail job because she needed to carry a water bottle with her to stay hydrated on the job. The reason? She was trying to prevent bladder infections. Other workers have been fired for simply requesting help with heavy lifting. Others may need some variety of seating to continue to do their jobs. These are not huge, expensive, inconvenient things. And still, women are losing their jobs. It’s in this time of low employment that women, especially women who are about to have to take care of another person, be able to keep the jobs they have if they choose to do so.
The bill is based heavily off of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which gives protection to those with disabilities and similarly requires accomodation of disability. Because pregancy is a temporary condition and not classified as a disability, it is not covered under that act. If we look at the ridiculous amounts of discrimination women face based on preganany, the protection is definitely needed. Sadly, I don’t know that this will pass. It seems like the new Republican party line mandates that if a bill is beneficail for women, it must be destroyed! Especially because all good mothers stay at home, pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, and it’s only those bad, evil mothers that are selfish enough to go to work! Or whatever it is they say.
I can almost guarantee that those who will work to send this bill packing will not be thinking about who this bill will help the most. They’ll be thinking about privileged women, probably white, who don’t really have to work, even if not working means that they’ll have to stretch to make ends meet. They’ll be thinking about women who can be supported by a spouse’s income or by family. They won’t be thinking about working class mothers who need these jobs to pay the rent, who can’t afford to take a few months off before the baby comes, and never go back to work. And these are the women who will benefit from this bill the most, in part because of the types of labor they do. Poor mothers or working class mothers probably aren’t sitting behind a computer in a big, cozy leather desk chair. They are on their feet, working at hotels or department stores or restaurants without a chance to properly hydrate or sit down for a minute. But the legislators who will kill this bill don’t even think about them, becuase in their minds, these women are not who they think of as mothers. And that pisses me off.
Given that the United States has some of the worst maternity policies in the developed world, we need this bill. Maybe it will push us in the right direction towards a better state of healthcare and protection for mothers. The way we handle motherhood right now is despicable. We put women on a pedestal for being a mother(but only the right kind!) and then push them off the first time they do something that our heterocentric, patriarchal society doesn’t approve of. And while I want that to change, it isn’t going to unless we start demanding it. So head over to sign the petition telling Congress that you support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Let’s get this message across.