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On Pregnancy Accommodation

On Pregnancy Accommodation

With Kameron Dawson, Senior Staff Attorney, A Better Balance | Interviewed by Matt Crossman

Welcome to AccelPro Employment Law, where we provide expert interviews and coaching to accelerate your professional development. Today we’re featuring a conversation about the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and other pregnancy accommodation laws. Our guest is Kameron Dawson, Senior Staff Attorney at A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization.

A Better Balance produced a report called Long Overdue, which lays out the growing number of states that have passed pregnancy accommodations laws, many of them with bipartisan support and some unanimously.

The laws require companies to make reasonable accommodations, which Dawson says means “a medically necessary workplace change so that a worker can continue to do their job functions.”

That can mean allowing a worker to have access to water or setting aside a time and place for women to pump breast milk. Dawson lays out the complicated web of factors involved in getting this right: There are safety, privacy and bias issues to consider when an employee is pregnant. 

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Interview References:



Matt Crossman, Host: We’re going to talk about pregnancy accommodation laws, but first I want to set the stage with a little bit of background on you. You are a Senior Staff Attorney for A Better Balance. What is A Better Balance and what do you do for them?

Kameron Dawson: A Better Balance is a legal advocacy organization. Our main mission is to use the power of the law through direct services, policy advocacy and community outreach, as well as impact litigation, to advance justice for workers so they don’t have to choose between caring for themselves and their loved ones and jeopardizing their economic security. 

We have an expert legal team at our national organization where we combat discrimination against pregnant workers and caregivers. We also advance supportive work family policies like pregnancy accommodations or paid sick time and paid family and medical leave for caregivers and other workers who have family caregiving responsibilities.

In order to help support mothers and caregivers in America, we also run a free and confidential legal helpline so that workers can understand and assert their rights in the workplace. We talk with workers one on one and engage them in extensive outreach and advocacy efforts to make sure that some of those hard fought protections we win are meaningfully enforced over the long run.

As a senior staff attorney, I’m based here in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on advancing federal, state and local legislation that will support those working families. And I also provide technical assistance and some supportive legal policy reports for legislators and the public so they can clearly understand why these issues are so important for our economy, our businesses and also the people that are working there.

I also represent workers and enforce some of the rights we’ll talk about today.

MC: Let’s start with what the state of laws is now. The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect in June. What does the PWFA cover?

KD: It covers the private sector and the public sector. So businesses that have 15 or more employees, plus Congress, federal agencies, as well as some labor organizations. And what that law says is employees and applicants who have known limitations related to their pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions like lactation may request and receive reasonable accommodations unless it would pose an undue hardship on their employer’s business. 

Although not all pregnant or postpartum workers may need accommodations, this law provides explicit and timely protections so that a worker does not have to choose between having or maintaining a healthy pregnancy and being temporarily put on leave too early or losing their job and facing discrimination.

This was a transcending law in the gender and racial justice spectrum. This was an amendment to Title VII law, which we haven’t seen for many decades. But it includes important protections against retaliation for needing, requesting or using an accommodation, and it also requires that an employee is not forced to accept an accommodation they do not need.

We’re very excited to see this new federal law in place to help some pregnant and nursing workers really be protected while they are taking care of their health.

MC: From my reading, the PWFA seems like an expansion of what’s covered by other laws, such as the ADA, the PDA, and the Family Medical Leave Act. Is that true?

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