September 2, 2014 — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on Tuesday signed a bill (HB 8) into law that improves protections against job-based discrimination for pregnant workers, the AP/Rockford Register Star reports. The law will take effect in January (Tareen, AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).
The law 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 (Lazare, Chicago Business Journal, 8/26). Employers will be permitted to ask women for a doctor's note related to their request, according to the Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).
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 (AP/Rockford Register Star, 8/26).
Supporters Explain Need for Law
"This legislation is especially important for low-income workers, who typically have the most physically demanding jobs and are least likely to have access to maternity leave and sick time," said Wendy Pollack, director of the Women's Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, in a statement issued by Quinn's office. "Women can't afford to lose their jobs, along with their income, seniority, and their employer-provided health insurance, or put their pregnancies at risk, due to the denial of a reasonable accommodation," she added (Chicago Tribune, 8/26).
Quinn said in the statement, "Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job," adding, "These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state" (Chicago Business Journal, 8/26).