The Indiana House has passed a workplace pregnancy accommodations bill that would not require businesses to make any adjustments for employees.
House Bill 1309, authored by Rep. Karen Engleman, R-Georgetown, will allow employees to request accommodations from their employer—something pregnant workers are already permitted to do.
The bill, if it becomes law, would require an employer to respond to a worker’s request, but the employer would not be required to provide any of the requested accommodations.
Businesses would not be able to discriminate against employees who ask for accommodations.
The House voted 95-2 on Wednesday evening to approve the bill, sending it to the Senate for consideration.
“This bill is not all I would like it to be,” Engleman said. “But it’s important that we establish a foundation in state law that at a minimum will ensure pregnant women who request an accommodation will not be discriminated against.”
Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-South Bend, tried to amend the legislation on Tuesday so it would have some teeth to it and require businesses to provide certain reasonable accommodations, but that amendment failed 68-30. Bauer had filed a bill that would have made the pregnancy accommodations a requirement, but it did not receive a hearing.
Engleman said Bauer’s amendment would have killed the bill.
Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, said he doesn’t think the bill goes far enough, but he voted in support of it because Engleman accepted his amendment that clarified that employers would still have to follow any federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, that would require them to make certain adjustments.
“We have to adopt the mindset that our women are first-class citizens,” Bartlett said. “We have to adopt the mindset that a pregnant woman cannot always do the job she was hired to do.”
Women make up about half of Indiana’s workforce, but pregnant women and new moms sometimes struggle to continue working. Sometimes, pregnant women stay in jobs that involve strenuous work that could cause complications because they need to keep their income.
Advocates for passing a pregnancy accommodations bill say the legislation would keep women healthy and on the job, and could help improve the state’s infant mortality rate, which has been among the highest in the nation for years.
Thirty other states, including Kentucky and Tennessee, already have pregnancy accommodations laws.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has included pregnancy accommodations on his legislative agenda, and even though he initially advocated for language that required businesses to make adjustments for pregnant workers, he is not objecting to HB 1309.
He has described it as “a step in the right direction.”
Another bill, SB 246, authored by Republican Sen. Ron Alting of Lafayette, does call for employers to make numerous pregnancy accommodations, but that legislation has yet to receive a hearing, which must happen by Thursday for the bill to remain eligible for consideration.