Historic pro-worker legislation may actually have a chance at passage this year.

After focusing on COVID relief for several weeks, Congress is now turning its attention to a series of far-reaching, pro-employee pieces of legislation. And, unlike other years, these employment provisions have a chance at passage in 2021.

However, unless Democrats eliminate the filibuster, they'll need Republican support in the Senate to pass. That means the final legislation may not look like what's proposed. Key bills in play:

  1. Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. It would require employers with 15 or more employees to grant reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. Practical examples: more bathroom breaks and modified duties to reflect related medical conditions. Current law (the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) requires employers only to not discriminate against pregnant workers or applicants. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support last year but was never taken up in the Senate.

  2. The Paycheck Fairness Act. Introduced every year since 1997, the PFA is one of President Biden's top domestic priorities. It would place a high bar in front of employers trying to justify differentials in wages between women and men.

    Under current law (the Equal Pay Act) jobs are considered equal if they require equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar conditions. But employers can pay women differently if they can point to any factor other than gender to justify the pay difference (experience, education, etc.). Advocates of the PFA say this makes it easy to underpay women.

    The PFA would refine these "other than sex" factors. Employers would have to show the factor is not based on prior (and possibly biased) salary at other jobs and there is a business necessity for the pay differential. Plus, employers would have to place a dollar value on each stated business necessity. (How much is that extra year of experience worth?)

  3. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. On March 9, the House passed this most significant overhaul of federal labor law in decades. The bill reads like organized labor's wish list. But getting it through a...

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