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More States Protecting Pregnant Workers Through Legislation

More States Protecting Pregnant Workers Through Legislation

September 8, 2014 — Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) on Tuesday is expected to sign a bill (SB 212) that would bolster accommodations for pregnant workers, making Delaware the most recent on a growing list of states and localities to increase workplace protections during pregnancy, Brigid Schulte writes in the Washington Post's "She The People."

The Delaware Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, sponsored by state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D), would ensure that pregnant women receive "reasonable and fair" accommodations -- such as sitting, carrying water bottles, taking bathroom breaks or avoiding heavy lifting -- so they can continue working through their pregnancies, according to Schulte.

Hall-Long said, "This makes common sense not just for maternal and child health, but as good, sound economics." She added, "A simple accommodation is so much easier than laying someone off" or "terminating them." The Delaware legislation passed unanimously with support from lawmakers in both parties and the business community.

The bill, like some similar measures elsewhere, would allow employers to refuse the accommodations under circumstances that would pose undue hardship on the company.

More States Enacting Protections

More states have been considering legislation to protect pregnant workers as lawsuits and pregnancy discrimination claims have increased, according to Schulte. Lawmakers who support allowing workplace accommodations during pregnancy call the measures "'common sense'" legislation, and the "movement has been picking up steam," Schulte writes.

In the last 18 months, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and New Jersey have passed laws that improve protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant women. California and Hawaii have similar laws. Meanwhile, legislation is pending in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, according to Schulte.

Federal Action

Democrats in Congress have been working to pass a federal version of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942, HR 1975). President Obama in June urged lawmakers to pass it.

The bills have 30 Senate and 135 House Democrat co-sponsors but have been "[c]aught in the mire of bitterly divided partisan politics," Schulte writes.

Hall-Long said, "It's really important that folks understand that pregnancy isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. It affects all of us" (Schulte, "She The People," Washington Post, 9/8).