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Pregnant Worker Rights

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Good news for working women who become pregnant:

While New Jersey and New York City were the latest to pass workplace protections for pregnant workers, a new state has taken up the cause: West Virginia.

The state has long been mostly purple, but has’t voted for a Democratic president since 1996. Yet now it’s embracing a new requirement for its employers championed by progressives. Its Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers unless there is undue hardship, unanimously passed the House on Wednesday.

While there are some existing federal protections for pregnant workers, they can still suffer financial hardship or even health problems when employers refuse to accommodate them. One West Virginia worker, who wished to remain anonymous because she is still employed, found out the hard way when her employer in the chemical industry put her on unpaid leave when she showed a doctor’s note that she couldn’t work with a particular chemical. Her story had a positive outcome: after she hired a lawyer, the company came to the table and they came to an agreement. But as Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV Free, one of the organizations helping to propel the bill forward, told ThinkProgress, “This law will address those problems without having to have the resources to get a lawyer.”

Democrats need to push a federal bill on pregnant workers’ rights. It will either force Republicans to do something positive for workers and pass the bill or expose another front in their war on women. It’s both the right thing to do and good politics. A bill was introduced last May but hasn’t gone anywhere. Let’s hope that changes.

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