In the past year, there have been significant changes to regulatory and legal aspects of gender equal protection in the United States (U.S.). These changes have been enacted at both the U.S. Supreme Court and state level. After the 2016 Supreme Court Decision in Peggy Young v. UPS, occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals may notice an increased interest in, and concerns about, gender equal protection from management, occupational medicine providers, and human resource partners. Additionally, several states have passed, or are in the process of deliberating on, workplace laws about pregnancy accommodations and protection. These national conversations have re-energized the discussion about gender equal protection in the workplace.
State-based laws have generally been termed a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) or similarly named acts. As of June 2016, there are 18 states, the District of Columbia, and 4 municipalities that have enacted PWFA legislation, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia (National Partnership for Women and Families, 2016). There is also a proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S.1512) at the federal level, but progress in passing the act is slow. Congress has "attempted multiple times to pass" the federal PWFA, but the law has been opposed by multiple sessions of Congress (Pisko, 2016).
Also relevant are the upcoming regulatory changes associated with the revisions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act. As part of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a definition for "potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation" has been established, to include a group of individuals with greater risk than the general population for adverse health effects relating to chemical exposure. This greater risk is further explained to be either from greater susceptibility or greater exposure, and includes infants, children, pregnant women, workers, and the elderly (Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, 2016).