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Distributor's Link Magazine Summer 2021 / Vol 44 No 3


40 THE DISTRIBUTOR’S LINK Jim Truesdell James Truesdell is President of Brauer Supply Company, a distributor of specialty fasteners, insulation, air filtration, and air conditioning with headquarters in St. Louis. Mr. Truesdell is adjunct professor at Saint Louis University and Webster University. An attorney and frequently published writer, he is the author of “Total Quality Management: Reports From the Front Lines”. FAIRNESS TO PREGNANT WORKERS... PROPOSAL PROVIDES SOLUTIONS There are fewer Americans being born than are needed to keep up with the needs of our society. Just like in much of Europe and Japan, our country is starting to see a slowdown in the population replacement rate as birth rates are declining. This has implications for the ability of businesses to find future workers, for the funding of all of the entitlements that seem to be the direction in which our government is headed, and for the forward looking sense of inevitable growth that has always fueled America’s confidence in the future. If this is a reality with which we must grapple then it is time to start doing the things some of those other countries are doing to encourage and accommodate working women who are choosing to have children, even as they continue their careers and play important roles in keeping our wheels of commerce turning. It is this realization that is garnering bi-partisan support for the “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” which has gathered support from The US Chamber of Commerce and other business associations in addition to the expected endorsements from social agencies and women’s rights groups. Businesses are seeing the future in their current struggles to find and keep sufficient workers. They see assistance to their current workers and potential employees as important not only in securing and retaining workers, but as a necessary part business must play in the long term welfare of the country. If we do not wish to become dependent on an ever increasing flow of immigration to supplement our industries’ needs then we ultimately will need to provide environments where families and children are a top priority reflected in the way we structure our workplaces and support our workers. Why is this legislation needed since we already have CONTRIBUTOR ARTICLE the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act? It addresses those” in between” situations where the worker does not wish to take leave and wants to keep working but requires a little help to do so. Since pregnancy is not a “disability” under the ADA there are often situations where the worker faces a stark choice between taking time off or continuing to work while possibly endangering her health or that of her unborn child. Likewise, the FMLA provides job protection for unpaid leave, but not necessarily for taking the steps to keep someone on the job. Because of this ambiguity there have been numerous lawsuits filed (most decided in favor of the employer) but it has left companies with very unclear guidelines as to how they are to handle these situations. Passed by the House this spring and pending in the Senate with sponsors from both parties, the “PWFA” would extend the “accommodations” requirement of the Americans With Disabilities Act to women workers who are pregnant. This act would make it illegal for businesses with more than 15 employees to deny reasonable accommodations to employees who face the limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. It would still exempt companies able to demonstrate “undue hardship” in making those accommodations. Such supportive actions could include things like longer breaks, providing proper height stools for workers who would normally have to stay on their feet for long periods, additional bathroom breaks , access to drinking water and food, help with lifting, or sometimes temporary assignment to lighter duties. A pregnant worker could not be compelled to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation can be provided. CONTINUED ON PAGE 118


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