What is the pregnant workers fairness act? : The Indicator from Planet Money What happens if someone can't perform their job in the same way because of pregnancy? Until now, they could be sent home without pay – essentially lose their job. But a new law aims to change that, by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant people. For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.

The pregnant workers fairness act, explained

The pregnant workers fairness act, explained

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Paul Morigi/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Advocates, legislators, and pregnant workers rally on Capitol Hill in support of The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act on December 01, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for A Better Balance)
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Economists have long documented gaps in pay and career opportunities between working mothers and their male peers. And those gaps don't just start after a child is born. Pregnant workers also face unique barriers in the workplace. For instance, if a pregnant worker needs to drink more water, or not lift heavy items, their employer hasn't been legally required to make those accommodations.

But that's changing. Last month, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act as part of its $1.7 trillion dollar spending bill. The law requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers.

Today on the show, Jennifer Shinall, Vanderbilt law professor and economics PhD, explains how we got here and shares her research into the economic impact of workplace protections for pregnant people.

You can check out more on Jennifer's research here.

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For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.