Online Program

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: At the Intersection of Maternal Health, Discrimination, and Labor Law

Monday, November 2, 2015

Liz Friedman, MFA, MotherWoman, Amherst, MA
Leslie A. Mandel, PhD, MA, MSM, School of Health Sciences, Regis College, Waltham, MA
Lynne Man, PhD, MS, MPH, Independent Consultant, Lunenburg, MA
The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) embodies much needed legislation that protects and advocates for the needs of working mothers. By holding employers to a set standard of business practices and regulations, the PWFA will help ensure the economic stability and health of employees across the state of Massachusetts.

On the surface, it is easy to compartmentalize the issues raised by the PWFA as just a women’s issue or a discrimination issue or a labor policy issue. Upon further inspection, however, it is clear that the job security and accommodation of pregnant workers reflects more broadly on American society and infrastructure.

Namely, the rights of pregnant workers are directly linked to issues of public health. The undue stress caused by a lack of reasonable accommodations and the threat of unemployment can put strain on the health of both mother and child; links have been found between high levels of stress during pregnancy and an elevated occurrence of premature birth and low birthweight. For example, pregnant workers who need income but lack reasonable accommodations often feel forced to continue working in unsafe environments in order to preserve their employment. Additionally, financial hardship as a result of discrimination during pregnancy can lead to increasing numbers of children living below the poverty line. These children are then at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to adequate healthcare and education.

This workshop will cover the implications of the PWFA on the intersecting issues of the economy and public health, through the lens of legislative action, with special attention to the need for this kind of legislation, as well as the expected results of its implementation.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe the current situation in which mothers are denied basic work place accommodations while pregnant, the current political environment, including Young vs. UPS as well as state and national initiatives to pass pregnant worker accommodations legislation and the reasons the ADA is not appropriate to address basic pregnancy accommodations. Explain the impact of lack of pregnancy accommodations on maternal/child health, maternal income and poverty, work force stability and health care costs. Describe the need for work place accommodation legislation at the state and national levels to ensure that pregnant workers are not unfairly discriminated against due to basic, temporary pregnancy health needs.

Keyword(s): Maternal and Child Health, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author because I have worked collaboratively for several years with MotherWoman, Inc - key participants in the legislation- as an evaluator of their programmatic efforts. I am also an associate professor of public health with an expertise and two degrees in policy. I currently teach public health policy and advocacy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.