Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to provide protections for millions of expectant mothers

Nearly 3 million women are pregnant on the job each year. And for many of them, each working day can be a challenge — until now. 

A major move for worker's rights goes into effect Tuesday. It's called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. 

As any woman who has been pregnant knows, it's a lot to handle. The fatigue, the sickness, the whole creating a new life thing.

Chris Flores' wife is 8 months pregnant with their second child, so he sees firsthand the struggle.

"Just getting up, just doing everyday life things is hard," Flores said. "Imagine working. It's a struggle, which is why I told her to stop working because it's not good for the baby or her."

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a federal law with protections for millions of expectant mothers.

It requires employers with 15 or more workers to provide "reasonable accommodations" related to pregnancy and childbirth.

So, what are reasonable accommodations?

Some examples include the ability to sit, drink water, get closer parking, additional bathroom breaks, pregnancy-friendly uniforms, not lifting heavy things, and flexible hours for doctor's appointments —  just to name a few.

"We know that stress during pregnancy is not good for the mother and not good for the developing infant," said Dr. Thomas Farley, D.C. Health's Senior Deputy Director for the Community Health Administration.

Dr. Farley says many companies were likely already offering reasonable accommodations as a matter of courtesy, but now the law will require all employers to do so.

"A lot of women are in the workplace and that's a wonderful thing, but for the future of the health of all of us, we certainly want women to be healthy throughout their pregnancy," Dr. Farley said.

Now, nine months pregnant and expecting her baby any day, Yhaaira Martinez was one of the lucky ones with an understanding employer.

"If I needed a break, they would understand and give me the break I needed," she said.

Still, she stopped working at 35 weeks pregnant, giving herself and her baby time to rest.

And she's hopeful the new law will give new moms a bit of a break.

"It's a struggle creating a life, so it's the little things that can help somebody," Martinez said.  

Some experts believe this law may really help lower-wage workers who are oftentimes afraid to speak up for fear of losing their job.

A spokeswoman for 32BJ SEIU, which represents 20,000 property services workers in the D.C. area and Baltimore told FOX 5: "SEIU helped push for passage of this law as well as local paid family leave laws. They are especially critical for non-union airport service workers and janitors who lack the support of a union to help them fight mistreatment by unscrupulous employers."