Washington, D.C. – A coalition representing a combined membership of more than 250,000 small businesses throughout the country submitted a friend of the court brief this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, arguing that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) implementation of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) should be upheld by the court in the midst of litigation attacks from state Attorneys General.  

“Women entrepreneurs have made it clear that the freedom to decide if and when to have children is critically important to their ability to start and grow a business,” said Rachel Shanklin, national women’s entrepreneurship director for Small Business Majority. “Small Business Majority’s research found that 92% of women business owners said access to reproductive healthcare is vital to their economic well-being and to the entire small business community. For these reasons, our courts must uphold the protections in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.”

“Small businesses comprise 99.9% of all U.S. businesses, and women are half our workforce. We need policies that support women’s full participation in the workforce, including the ability of pregnant workers to protect their health during employment,” added David Levine, Co-Founder and President of the American Sustainable Business Council/Network. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act fills previously existing gaps in our laws – gaps that were unjust, dangerous for women’s health, and detrimental to businesses’ productivity. These protective regulations provide much-needed guidance for small businesses to understand their obligations, eliminate confusion, and provide a blueprint for increasing worker retention and improving the health, well-being, and productivity of employees who are vital to their success. Businesses are responsible for ensuring their workers’ health and safety, including pregnant workers; pregnant workers can decide for themselves what that looks like.”

“The majority of Main Street Alliance members are women, and many of those women were driven to start enterprises of their own because their previous employment lacked flexibility around family care,” said Richard Trent, Executive Director of Main Street Alliance. “Our work with women owners has taught us that entrepreneurship increases the agency of women to make sound decisions for themselves and their families—and that employers and employees are entitled to protections in the workplace that uphold their dignity. Misguided efforts to overturn this landmark law should be rejected immediately.”

Democracy Forward represents the Small Business Majority, Main Street Alliance, and American Sustainable Business Council/Network in this brief. 

“The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ensures that people who are pregnant do not have to choose between their jobs and their health. The Attorneys General who are trying to dismantle the Equal Opportunity Commission’s regulation implementing the policy because the rule protects workers who need abortion care are threatening real harm to businesses and their workers across America,” said Skye Perryman, President and CEO of Democracy Forward. “The EEOC’s policy will keep qualified and valuable employees – especially women – in the workplace.  The policy gives vital regulatory clarity to businesses – which is especially important for small businesses. Democracy Forward will continue to work with businesses that are the backbone of the US economy in courtrooms and communities across the country to protect businesses and their workers.”  

In December 2022, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  Thereafter, the EEOC undertook to develop regulations to implement the PWFA, which it finalized on April 15 of this year.  Ten days later, 17 state attorneys general, led by Tennessee and Arkansas, sued the EEOC, challenging its implementation of the PWFA and its guarantee of reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant workers.  The suit specifically challenges the inclusion of abortion as one of the medical conditions related to pregnancy that may require accommodation and is the latest in the slew of lawsuits filed since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade to further restrict access to reproductive health care.  

In the brief, the coalition of small businesses makes clear that the PWFA and the regulation implementing it is good for business and should be upheld.  

“The rule provides easy-to-interpret guidance that clarifies how to comply with the PWFA when employees request accommodations, including time off, during pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including abortion,” added Perryman. 

For more information about Democracy Forward, please visit www.democracyforward.org

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