Floralba, a pregnant retail worker in the Bronx, was sent home on unpaid leave because she needed to temporarily avoid heavy lifting in order to prevent having another miscarriage. Last week, A Better Balance used the new law we championed, the NYC Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to get Floralba back at work, with backpay, and to convince her employer to update it's policies in compliance with the law! This week, she has been pricing and hanging clothes instead of hauling heavy piles of clothes as she was required to do in the past. Thanks to this powerful new law, Floralba did not have to choose between her paycheck and a healthy pregnancy.
Now, thanks to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which took effect in January, after nearly two months without work, Ms. Fernandez is back on the job and rejoicing over her victory.
Ms. Fernandez, who earns $8 an hour and has worked at Unique Thrift for about two years, desperately needs the back pay, her union representatives said. During her time out of work, she struggled to pay her bills. Ms. Fernandez, who is 22 and four and a half months pregnant, had to borrow money from her family to buy groceries, and her boyfriend, a livery taxi driver, worked double shifts to help pay rent and utilities.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represented Ms. Fernandez, praised her for “the courage to pursue her rights.”
I was quoted in the article saying that I hoped Ms. Fernandez’s victory “will give other pregnant women in New York City, especially those in low wage and physically demanding jobs, the courage to stand up for what they need to stay healthy and on the job." A Better Balance is dedicated to making this vision a reality. In the year ahead, A Better Balance will undertake a significant outreach effort to educate workers about their rights under the law and provide information to employers about their obligations. We will also take on employers who are not in compliance with the law.
Unfortunately, there are millions of women across the country that don't have the protections that the NYC Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) provides. If Floralba lived in Albany, NY or most other states in the U.S., then her story probably would not have a happy ending. We need to make similar protections a reality in every state. Policymakers need to understand that laws like the NYC PWFA are working and need to be expanded to other areas.
Learn more about how you can help here.
Read the full New York Times story here.