Colorado congressman Mike Coffman got props from the women’s rights community yesterday as he signed on to be the first Republican co-sponsor of the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” in the House.
“Women should never worry about losing their job simply because they’re pregnant,” said Coffman in a release. “This bipartisan effort strengthens our society and ensures women are never forced to decide between their child and their job.”
Linda Meric, the executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, said the measure is crucial for ensuring that women can have both a healthy pregnancy and a healthy checkbook.
“We’re talking about being able to sit on a stool at the cash register, being able to have a bottle of water at your work station, being able to take more frequent bathroom breaks,” Meric explained.
Meric added that if the bill passes it will be a big win for low-income workers.
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows that pregnancy discrimination complaints are highest among healthcare workers, retail workers, food-service workers and administrative workers,” she said.
“Those are low-wage job categories where women can least afford to lose their jobs or paychecks just because they are pregnant.”
The bill also aims to reduce hiring discrimination against pregnant women. A recent study conducted by Cornell University found that, “Mothers were 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers for the same job — even with the exact same qualifications.”
Cristina Aguilar, the executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, said she was happy to see a member of the Colorado delegation advocate for working moms.
“I’m always glad when women’s rights issues are not partisan. They should not be,” said Aguilar. “What’s most important for us is that we have elected officials who are taking a stand for women and families, regardless of what side of the aisle they’re on.”
But Meric added that there is still more that Coffman and other members of Congress can do to support working women after the baby arrives.
Such measures include the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn paid sick days to take their kids to the doctor’s, and the FAMILY Act, which would massively expand paid leave for new moms and dads.
“Welcoming a new baby to the family should be a strictly joyous occasion, not one that’s made stressful by lack of paid leave and economic hardship,” said Meric.
According to Pew research, the U.S. currently ranks behind at least 37 developed and developing countries — from Lithuania to Mexico — when it comes to paid parental leave.
Image via the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.