Pregnant Worker Bill Passes Committee, But Not What Advocates Hoped For

Feb 9, 2021

Indiana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
Credit (Flickr)

Pregnant workers could ask for workplace accommodations under a new bill headed to the Indiana House floor, but employers wouldn’t be required to grant them. Several groups say it’s a start to help expectant mothers and their babies, but doesn’t go far enough.

Accommodations for pregnant workers could include things like extra bathroom breaks or limiting heavy lifting. The legislation would require employers to receive requests and respond to them in a “reasonable time frame” and without retaliation. 

Employment law expert Deborah Widiss testified that, under two federal laws, many employers may already be required to provide accommodations. But if that isn’t mirrored in state law, she said employers could be confused about their responsibility.

“I think it just creates the risk that businesses end up exposing themselves to more legal liability without really taking a step forward for pregnant workers,” she said.

READ MORE: Hoosier Health Experts Say There's Still Work To Be Done Addressing Infant Mortality Rate

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Meanwhile, other bills that would require employers to provide accommodations have not been scheduled for committee discussion, despite the issue being part of Gov. Eric Holcomb's legislative agenda.

Eva Bell, a mother and organizer for Hoosier Action, urged lawmakers in the House committee to instead discuss and vote on another bill that would require accommodations. 

"This state needs pregnancy accommodations, just like all our neighboring states," Bell said. "Unfortuantely, this bill doesn't provide any real protection for women and babies ... we urge you to pass real accommodations in HB1358."

Several lawmakers commented that it was a "good step" and a "step in the right direction," but supported discussion about requiring accommodations from employers. It passed the committee with a vote of 12-1.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.