Floor Speech in Support of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

May 14, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1065, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the recognition.  

I thank the gentleman for his leadership and that of his Committee in bringing this important bipartisan legislation to the Floor.  I salute you.  I salute Jerry Nadler, an author of this legislation, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee.  And Mr. Katko for his lead cosponsorship, among other Republican Members, to make this strongly bipartisan.  

I'm excited about this legislation, as a mother of five children – four daughters, one son – nine grandchildren – that this is about a recognition of family and being family-friendly in our legislation, as more women are part of the economic success of our country.  

I rise to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a strong bipartisan step to ensure that women are no longer forced to choose between maintaining a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck, a choice that for many has serious health consequences.  

This landmark legislation advances the health of women and children, the financial security of families and, really, the dynamism of our American economy.  And its passage, while long overdue, is particularly urgent as lives and livelihoods of so many have been under threat by the coronavirus.  And again, I thank you, Mr. Leader, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Katko and Mr. Nadler and so many others for their leadership in passing this bill.  And thanks to all the cosponsors.  

Again, as a mother of five, I'm especially proud to support the bill.  I want to salute all the mothers and women who have spoken out while risking professional retaliation to end pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  This is what this means.  It means that too often, when a pregnant worker asks for a temporary job-related accommodation, she will be fired or pushed into unpaid leave, deprived of her paycheck and health insurance when she needs them the most. 
This is particularly true in many physically taxing jobs, which tend to be low-wage and traditionally dominated by men.  And that's why we must pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, putting in place a clear, explicit pregnancy accommodation framework, similar to the standard that is in place for decades for workers with disabilities, which I was proud to be part of.  Our distinguished Leader, Mr. Hoyer, has been a major leader in that regard.  

This legislation, Mr. Speaker, is also a matter of justice.  As nearly 300 groups, from the ACLU to ZERO TO THREE, ZERO TO THREE recently wrote to Congress – from A to Z – ‘discrimination affects pregnant workers across race and ethnicity, but women of color and immigrants may be at particular risk.  Latinas, Black women and immigrant women are more likely to be held – certain inflexible and physically demanding jobs that can present specific challenges for pregnant workers, making responsible accommodations on the job even more important and loss of wages and health insurance due to pregnancy discrimination especially challenging.’

I think it's important to note that this legislation is important, also, from the standpoint of hiring.  We want to make sure that employers who are hiring someone know there's a level playing field, should the woman be of child-bearing age or even already blessed with a pregnancy – that this is a positive initiative for their workplace and their treating that person with respect is not placing them at any disadvantage if the playing field is level.  

This comes at a time – I mentioned about the pandemic – around two million women were pushed out of the labor force.  One out of four women report they're still worse off financially than a year ago.  Studies show it will take eighteen months longer for the women's employment to rebound from the pandemic than for men's.  And the reduction of women's work hours and labor force participation is set to erase tens of billions of dollars from our economy. 

American women are part of the engine of America's economy and a key to Building Back Better on this – after this crisis.  Again, as we all say: when women succeed, America succeeds.  And we can apply that to say: when women of child-bearing age succeed, America certainly succeeds.  

For mothers and women who chose to be – who are pregnant, the challenges are even graver because our nation still lacks sufficient workplace protections against pregnancy discrimination.  And that is why this legislation is so very important and is consistent with what we pledge: liberty and justice for all – liberty and justice for all women.  

And with that, I'm very excited about this because, as we all know, pregnancy is a blessing to any family.  And we do not want any intervention that can be avoided in terms of accommodating the needs of women who are pregnant.  

With that I, again, salute all of you.  I'm very excited about this legislation and am so glad it will have strong bipartisan support.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.