On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect. This legislation has the potential to benefit nearly 2.8 million people per year, including almost 75% of pregnant Black women, almost two-thirds of pregnant Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women, 60% of pregnant Latina women, nearly 60% of pregnant American Indian and Alaska Native women, and more than half of pregnant women with a disability or women lacking economic security. New America hosted an event on June 29, 2023, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the Future of the Care Movement, to discuss the road to PWFA becoming law.
New America’s event began with a panel including two women who faced workplace discrimination while pregnant. They became advocates for A Better Balance, sharing their stories publicly and in front of Congress to help women across the country and promote PWFA. Lyndi Trischler, a Kentucky police officer, requested, and was subsequently denied, light duty when she became pregnant in 2014. Further, Ms. Trischler was told she would not have health insurance by the time she delivered, causing emotional and financial stress on her family. Ultimately, her son died a few hours after she gave birth to him, but she was only allowed a few weeks off to recover and grieve until she was pushed back into work. Natasha Jackson, a mother in South Carolina, was fired when she became visibly pregnant and requested a shift in her schedule to accommodate her morning sickness. Because of the financial strain, she ended up unhoused with two young children. Along with Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance, Ms. Trischler and Ms. Jackson agree that stories like these two were instrumental in PWFA’s journey to becoming law. Putting a face to who would benefit from PWFA allowed members of Congress to visualize why this law was necessary.
A second panel consisting of professionals who were influential in PWFA’s passage emphasized the importance of women like Ms. Trischler and Ms. Jackson telling their stories. Vania Levielle, Senior Legislative Counsel at the ACLU, added that another key to PWFA’s success was that several states, including some controlled by Republicans, had already adopted it. This allowed members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to support the legislation since it was clear constituents supported it. Marc Freedman, Vice President of Employment Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, explained that working towards a balanced bill was another crucial component of PWFA becoming law. Each panelist highlighted the necessity of compromise to PWFA’s success. Evidence of this is found in that over 100 Republican Congress members voted for this law, more than double what Mr. Freedman thought possible.
With the implementation of PWFA, multiple resources have become available to help navigate the benefits of this law, including an outreach toolkit, a know-your-rights resource (available in both English and Spanish), and information explaining what PWFA is and rights asserted under the law.
By Leah Sarfity, Policy Intern