House lawmakers to determine how pregnant women should be treated on the job

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers are taking a look at how pregnant women are treated in the workplace.

One Alabama woman told lawmakers on the House Education and Labor Committee that she had to take an unpaid leave of absence when she was pregnant.

“Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of happiness,” Michelle Durham said.

Instead, Durham said she spent nine months anxious and terrified.

Durham was working as an EMT in Alabama when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. Her doctor told her she couldn’t lift anything over 50 pounds. However, she said her employer wasn’t willing to give her a lighter work load.

“He told me my only option was to take an unpaid leave or medical absence,” Durham said.

Oregon Democratic Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said many American women are forced to choose between their financial security and their pregnancy.

Bonamici said The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees.

“Reasonable accommodations can range from providing seating, water and light duty to excuse pregnant workers from tasks involving dangerous substances,” Bonamici said.

Illinois lawyer Ellen McLaughlin says pregnant workers deserve protection, but more work needs to be done before Congress finalizes a plan.

“This is one of my big concerns with the bill. It's known limitations is not defined,” McLaughlin said.

The bill, which was re-introduced to the House earlier this year, is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to a press release. Representatives are currently trying to work on what "minor job modifications" means in practice.

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