June 12, 2015

Kaine Co-Sponsors Bills To Protect Pregnant Workers & Expand Access To Affordable Contraception

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine co-sponsored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and introduced the Affordability is Access Act, legislation to protect female workers and expand access to affordable health care for women.

After the U.S. Supreme Court case Young v. UPS left the workplace rights of pregnant workers uncertain, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – would address legal ambiguities and help ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job. The bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations – such as a minor job modification – that would allow pregnant workers to continue working and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

The Affordability is Access Act would allow women to have access to convenient, FDA-approved over-the-counter birth control pills without being forced to pay extra out-of-pocket on top of their insurance coverage. Expanded access to affordable contraception builds on the Affordable Care Act by ensuring that when the FDA approves birth control pills for over-the-counter use, they will be covered without cost sharing and without the need for a prescription. The legislation would help expand women’s access to affordable birth control while maintaining the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety and quality of drugs.

“When women are treated equally in the workplace and given affordable access to contraception, families across Virginia are stronger,” said Kaine.

Background on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

Sixty-two percent of pregnant women and new moms are in the labor force, yet under current law, pregnant workers can be placed on unpaid leave or forced out of their jobs because of a pregnancy. The recent Supreme Court decision in Young v. UPS recognized that pregnant workers may need temporary accommodations in the workplace, but placed an undue burden on pregnant workers to prove that they were victims of discrimination. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, by using a framework familiar to employers under the ADA, makes it easier for employers to comply with the law, and easier for pregnant workers to request those minor modifications that will enable them to continue working.

This legislation is supported by: A Better Balance; the American Association of University Women; the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Equal Rights Advocates; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; Legal Momentum; the Main Street Alliance; the National Partnership for Women & Families; the National Organization for Women Foundation; the National Women’s Law Center; and many others.

Background on the Affordability Is Access Act:

  • Ensures coverage of comprehensive preventive health services and expands coverage to include full access to oral contraception for routine, daily over-the-counter use for all women. All private health insurance plans are now required to cover all U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception. The Act would ensure coverage of all oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription.
  •  Maintains the FDA’s sole authority to determine the safety, quality, and efficacy of drugs and make them available over-the-counter without a prescription. It is imperative that the entities that research and develop oral contraceptives, and whose medical and scientific experts have developed clinical and other evidence that birth control pills are safe and effective for women when sold without a prescription, apply to the FDA for review and approval for sale without a prescription.
  • Upon the receipt of such an application, the FDA must determine whether the contraceptive product meets the rigorous safety, efficacy, and quality standards for over-the-counter use, as established by the agency Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. If the product meets such these standards, the FDA should approve the application without delay.
  •  Ensures Retailers Provide Oral Contraception without a Prescription. The Act states that any retailer that stocks oral contraception that the FDA has approved or regulated for routine, daily use without a prescription may not interfere with a consumer’s access to or purchase of such contraception.