Many states are approving new protections for pregnant workers, requiring employers to give them more or longer bathroom breaks, rest periods, light duty, job transfers, leave time or other accommodations.
By Marsha Mercer
Decades after a federal law banned discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace, some states are providing additional protections to pregnant workers who want to stay on the job.
After Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, many state legislators thought the problem had been solved.
“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job.”
But as the number of women in the workforce has increased—and more of them have stayed on the job through their pregnancies—they have encountered obstacles not covered by the federal law.
Recent federal court rulings that have sided with employers who support a narrow interpretation of the law have added fuel to efforts in state capitals.
“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job,” outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said in August when he signed that state’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
As of Jan. 1, employers in Illinois must provide pregnant workers who request them more or longer bathroom breaks, rest periods, light duty, job transfers, leave time or other accommodations, unless doing so creates an undue hardship for the employer.
“These are women who are healthy and want to continue working,” said Democratic state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a sponsor of the Illinois bill. “They’re not looking to get out of work. What they want is a temporary accommodation.”
Eleven other states also have passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. In 2014, laws took effect in Delaware, Minnesota, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Since 2011, Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey also have approved laws. Continue reading