On Monday, eight male lawmakers in South Dakota voted down a bill that would have required reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees so that they can safely stay at work.
Rather than offering protections against discrimination, unsafe conditions, and getting fired, one of the guys needed a different alternative for pregnant workers. “It is not prison.
“You have a choice daily. You make a decision whether you come to work,” he went on. “And I am here to tell you, if a person is not enabling you to breastfeed at work or making proper accommodations on the job, we could pass this legislation, but you do not want to work for this man. Get the hell out of there.”
Discrimination against pregnant workers, such as shooting someone for getting pregnant or needing to extend her the identical work accommodations that disabled employees can use, is already against national law. The Supreme Court also sided with a previously pregnant UPS worker who sued her employer for refusing to give her light duty that was accessible to injured and disabled employees.
But many pregnant workers simply require small changes to have the ability to continue to function while protecting their health, such as more frequent bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on, or the ability to drink water at work. Nearly two-thirds of first-time moms work during their pregnancies, and the majority need some kind of modification to keep doing this. Nevertheless an estimated quarter million girls have their orders for these modifications rejected annually, and even more do not even ask for fear of jeopardizing their jobs.
To alter this landscape, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have passed bills that have come to be called pregnant employees equity functions, or laws requiring employers to grant those requests for modifications so pregnant workers can keep working unless they could prove it would be seriously detrimental to business. But in the other nations, it can be hard for pregnant employees who desire or need to keep working.
Democrats have repeatedly introduced a federal version of the law, which will ensure that pregnant employees all around the country would be covered, but it has made little progress.