Bipartisan bill to protect pregnant women’s rights in the workplace passes Senate

Pregnant women would get additional workplace protections under a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate with a unanimous vote Wednesday.

SB 5835, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, would ensure workplaces are required to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and also that employers cannot get away with discriminatory practices against pregnant employees, according to the bill report.

From the report:

It is an unfair practice for any employer to

  • fail or refuse to make reasonable accommodation for an employee for pregnancy, unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship — undue hardship means an action requiring significant difficulty or expense; take adverse action against an employee who requests, declines, or uses accommodation; and
  • deny employment opportunities to an otherwise qualified employee if the denial is based on the employer’s need to make reasonable accommodation…”

The bill was dubbed “Healthy Outcomes for Pregnant Workers” and received praise on Twitter from the National Federation of Independent Business Washington.

The bill outlines the accommodations that businesses are expected to give to pregnant employees, including longer restroom breaks, allowing pregnant workers to have food and drink in the office, allowing for job restructuring (such as accommodating a scheduling shift, providing comfortable seating to workers in primarily standing roles and additional assistance for manual labor.)

Under the bill, the Health Care Authority is also expected to require newborn delivery services to provide skin-to-skin contact between the infant and mother post-delivery ¬†and “room-in practices” to ensure mothers can be in the same room as their newborn.

Additionally, the bill creates the “Healthy Pregnancy Advisory Committee.” According to the bill report:

The Committee is comprised of 20 members from DOH and the health industry, including medical experts, hospitals that provide birthing services, health care providers involved in the care of pregnant women, and representatives of low-income women, women of color, and immigrant communities…The Committee shall meet quarterly and must consider best practices that agencies may integrate into their programs to improve birth outcomes, reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, and reduce infant mortality. The Committee must submit its strategy to the Legislature and the Governor’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation by October 15, 2018.

The bill has been sent to the House for consideration.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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