Legislation is inching forward that tells employers they must respond to pregnant workers when they submit written requests for accommodations, but doesn’t require them to grant them. Advocates for pregnant women actively oppose HB 1309 that is headed to the Senate floor following a 6-4 vote in the committee.
Sally Dixon coordinates fetal infant mortality reviews for St. Joseph County. In her work she’s interviewed 60 mothers to find common root causes for the deaths of their babies. She testified pregnancy accommodations alone probably aren’t a silver bullet fix for infant mortality, but it’s one of several policies they think will help bring about healthy births.
“I would really love a pregnancy accommodation bill,” she said. “But if an amendment cannot be added this year that requires the accommodation, I hope it doesn’t pass and that next year we follow what Tennessee and 30 other states have done.”
Business groups who want the bill to pass say it correctly balances business and workers rights more than other bills that would require accommodations.
Those who voted against it said the bill, as written, effectively does nothing: women can already ask for accommodations and be refused. Others expressed concern about regulating businesses when federal law might already protect their workers in many circumstances.
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“Trying to protect women is important but sometimes the vehicle by which we do it isn’t the best vehicle, so at this point I’m a nay,” said Sen. John Crane (R-Avon).
Senators who voted in favor said they did so for pragmatic reasons: it’s weaker than they’d like, but it’s an inch forward and could prompt a debate on the Senate floor about pregnancy accommodations.
Others in favor of it said the requirement to respond to requests could encourage businesses to develop accommodations on their own without the state mandating it.