Senate bill calls for reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers

When Destiny Faceson needed time off during her first pregnancy for her prenatal appointment, she couldn’t get anyone to change shifts with her and she ended up losing her job.

With her second pregnancy she had to take unpaid leave and when she returned, there was no accommodation so she could continue to breastfeed her child.

Faceson’s experience is an example of why Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said he co-authored Senate Bill 342, which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding.

“Put yourself in the shoes of the mother,” Faceson said as she described her experience of being pregnant in the workplace. “If it were you, if it were your daughter, or your aunt, or your grandmother back then. It affects everybody.”

Breastfeeding accommodations, bathroom and water breaks, lifting limitations after a certain point in the pregnancy, and scheduling changes for prenatal care are examples of accommodations employers would be required to make under SB 342, said Erin Macey, senior policy analyst for Indiana Institute for Working Families.

If there is a dispute on what is reasonable accommodation, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission would decide.

Indiana already prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Alting said there is a loophole that needs to be filled.

Under current legislation, there are no guidelines or guard rails that tell employers and pregnant workers where they can draw the line, said Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, who has signed on as a co-author. The proposed law would provide clearer guidelines.

Indiana ranks third in the nation in maternal mortality, Alting noted, which is the same mortality rate as Vietnam. He said Indiana also ranks seventh in the nation in infant mortality.

“Indiana is better than that, and we can do better than that,” he said.

Ford said that part of the problem stems from unreasonable work conditions for women, adding, “One of the reasons is, because women are literally working up to the day that they are giving birth.”

Macey said SB 342 is about helping women in the workplace and keeping them safe. Many women need and want to continue their jobs throughout their pregnancy in order to bring home a paycheck. They should not have to work in unsafe situations or take unpaid leave, she added.

There are many advantages in this bill for both the employer and pregnant women, Alting said. It lays out the guidelines for the women but does not put a burden on the employer.

“We don’t want to panic the business community out there, thinking they’re going to have to put in beds, and great expense, a lot of time off work. These are reasonable accommodations. Common sense accommodations,” Alting said.

The bill will be heard Monday before the Senate Family and Children Services Committee.

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