National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

More States Improving Workplace Protections for Pregnant Women

More States Improving Workplace Protections for Pregnant Women

January 12, 2015 — After an Illinois law (HB 8) improving protections against job-based pregnancy discrimination took effect on Jan. 1, 12 states and five cities now have laws in place to clarify employers' obligations to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, Governing's "Stateline" reports. Several other states are expected to debate the issue this year (Mercer, "Stateline," Governing, 1/7).

The Illinois law, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in August, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as more-frequent bathroom breaks, places to sit, space for breastfeeding, limits on heavy lifting and assistance with manual labor. Employers will be permitted to ask women for a doctor's note related to their request.

The law also specifies that a pregnant woman cannot be forced to take a leave of absence if other workplace accommodations can be made and that employers cannot reject a qualified applicant because of potential pregnancy accommodations. Women who do not believe their employers are complying with the law will be able to file complaints (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/2/14).

The Illinois law comes after measures requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers took effect last year in Delaware, Minnesota, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., joining several other states and localities that already had similar laws in place. Such efforts have often had the support of both conservative and liberal lawmakers, according to "Stateline."

The state laws vary, with some based off the previously introduced federal Pregnant Worker Fairness Act (S 942, HR 1975). Meanwhile, others were crafted separately, such as the Illinois measure, which was written by the state American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Rights Project.

Other States, SCOTUS To Weigh In This Year

In addition, state lawmakers in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are expected to consider statewide protections for pregnant workers in 2015, according to "Stateline."

Further, the Supreme Court this summer is expected to issue a decision on Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case involving a former UPS driver who was placed on unpaid leave after she told the company she could not lift heavy packages while pregnant ("Stateline," Governing, 1/7). At issue in the case is whether the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555) required UPS to provide Young with reasonable accommodations while she was pregnant (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/4/14).