May 7, 2015 — The New York state Assembly on Tuesday passed two bills aimed at protecting women in the workplace, the AP/Miami Herald reports.
According to the AP/Miami Herald, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has said he will sign both bills (AP/Miami Herald, 5/6).
The bills are part of a legislative package known as the Women's Equality Act (American Civil Liberties Union statement, 5/5). The 10-point package, which failed to pass in its entirety in previous sessions, includes bills covering issues such as human trafficking, sexual harassment, pay equity, protective orders for women and abortion access.
In January, the state Senate passed eight of the measures included in the package. However, the chamber did not take up the abortion-rights measure. Meanwhile, a version of one of the package's bills that addressed penalties for domestic violence already had become law (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/13).
According to the AP/Herald, one of the bills (A 4272) approved Tuesday would require employers to afford pregnant workers reasonable accommodations to enable them to continue in the job. Such accommodations might include a break from heavy lifting, additional restroom breaks, seating options or a transfer from duties that could be hazardous, according to sponsors. Employers would be exempt if the accommodations would present an undue hardship.
The other approved bill (A 5360) would extend existing prohibitions on sex discrimination to workplaces that have fewer than four workers (AP/Miami Herald, 5/6).
Abortion-Rights Supporters Continue To Push Reproductive Services Act
In related news, abortion-rights supporters in the New York state Senate have said they will continue to press for the passage of another measure (A 6221) in the Women's Health Equity Act that would codify abortion rights established under Roe v. Wade into state law, Capital New York reports (Vielkind, Capital New York, 5/5).
The New York Assembly in March approved the measure individually after it was separated out from the larger legislative package. The package had been introduced in two previous sessions but failed to pass in the state Senate, where some conservatives opposed the abortion-rights provision (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).
According to Capital New York, the individual measure, called the Reproductive Services Act, would put the Supreme Court's Roe ruling into a state statute and codify under state law that there is a right to abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy "when necessary to protect a woman's life or health as determined by a licensed physician."
Pledge To Support Bill
On Tuesday, state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) pledged to work on passing the bill before an audience of about 65 NARAL Pro-Choice New York members, who were visiting the chamber as part of their annual lobbying day.
Stewart-Cousins called on the NARAL members to help "energize the base of support which ... is overwhelming for choice." Speaking about the Reproductive Services Act specifically, she added, "It's not a lost cause. It's about raising consciousness, raising awareness, waking people up ... I don't know that there could be a vote right now or in the next few weeks before session ends, but the reality is it's an issue that's important." (Capital New York, 5/5).