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Pregnancy accommodations bill advances, could have little effect in workplace

CDC: Most pregnancy-related deaths avoidable, could come up to year after labor
Posted at 5:01 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 17:01:54-05

INDIANAPOLIS — For years, statewide advocates have pushed for Indiana lawmakers to allow for accommodations for pregnant women into law. Last year, Gov. Eric Holcomb joined their cause, making his case at both the 2020 and the 2021 State of the State addresses.

A pregnancy accommodations bill passed a House committee Tuesday, but it is unlikely to satisfy their requests.

House Bill 1309 wouldn’t provide accommodations for pregnant women at work, but it would allow for women to request accommodations from their employers – something they can already do without the law.

The bill also says the employer must respond to the request in a “reasonable” amount of time but doesn’t define how much time that would be.

If passed, it wouldn’t require an employer to provide an accommodation for a pregnant employee, but the employer couldn’t discipline or fire the employee for the request.

A pregnancy accommodations bill filed last year would’ve required employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women. Those accommodations included some of the following examples:

  • More frequent or longer breaks
  • Unpaid time off work to recover from childbirth
  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position
  • Work break time for expressing breast milk
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk
  • Assistance with physical or manual labor

The author of the 2020 bill, Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, said last year nobody should be against the term “reasonable accommodations.”

“We’re not asking you to go build a day care,” Alting said in January 2020. “We’re not asking you to build out a room so a mother can get her breast milk. We’re not asking you to bring in beds from a fancy furniture store for accommodations. We’re asking for reasonable accommodations. Hello? What am I missing here?”

That bill passed a committee but was gutted and changed to a summer study committee after a vote by most Senate Republicans. Alting voted against the major change to his bill. The study committee didn’t end up happening, either.

A national pregnancy accommodations bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September but didn’t get heard in the U.S. Senate.

The 2021 bill passed Tuesday 12-1. The only no vote was Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis.