Over 30 organizations asked the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation granting pregnant and lactating workers the right to reasonable accommodations on the job. Unfortunately, in Indiana today, some women, especially those in low-wage or physically demanding positions, are still pushed off the job or forced into leave when all they need is a small work modification, such as a stool or water bottle.
Such legislation would facilitate healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, promote the economic security of women and their families, provide clear expectations for employers, and boost our economy.
Employers are already expected to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. But because pregnancy is not, in and of itself, considered a disability, pregnant and lactating workers are not necessarily covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) even though they may need small accommodations such as a stool or water bottle to remain on the job safely.
While pregnant and lactating women do have protections from discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the law has led to confusion among both employers and employees with regard to workplace accommodations, because the law hinges on whether an employer is already accommodating other workers or not.
Why does this matter? The workforce has changed, and in many families, women are now sole or primary breadwinners, with over 317,000 Indiana households headed by women. Women who cannot afford to lose their job, but need small accommodations, may be afraid to ask their employer for adjustments, or may continue working in dangerous conditions. Nationwide, an estimated 250,000 pregnant women are denied small accommodations each year. Even more report that they are afraid to ask.
In Indiana, nearly 85,000 women give birth every year, and our state has a 10 percent premature birth rate. Research has found reductions in pre-term birth when women modify their exposure to certain work conditions. Legislation assuring pregnant women that their employer will work with them to make any necessary small changes at work can reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Being able to continue working not only ensures that women can continue to bring home a paycheck, but also allows them to maintain seniority, keep their health care coverage, and stay in the running for advancement opportunities. It may also increase the likelihood that families can bond and new mothers can breastfeed after a child is born because they have not had to use up accrued time off during pregnancy.
This law may also improve overall health and employers’ bottom line. A pregnant worker accommodation law will increase employee retention and morale, and reduce employers’ turnover and training costs, which can be quite high. It would also help employers avoid costly litigation by providing clearer guidelines for employers, so they can anticipate their responsibilities.
Furthermore, ensuring pregnant workers stay safe on the job will reduce healthcare costs. Each premature/low birth weight baby costs employers an additional $49,760 in newborn health care costs. When maternal costs are added, employers and their employees pay $58,917 more when a baby is born prematurely.
Ensuring that pregnant women receive workplace accommodations would also boost Indiana’s economy in a variety of ways.
It would reduce the number of preterm births, increase the labor force attachment of women, and ensure that families can continue to earn a paycheck when they most need it. In short, this is a common-sense move, and Indiana would join 27 other states that have already clarified their expectations for employers and pregnant workers.
The organizations that urge support for this commonsense legislation include:
Indiana Breastfeeding Coalition, Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Indiana Section of that American College of OBGYN, March of Dimes, The Little Timmy Project, The Milk Bank, CorComm Creative, Cummins Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Etica Group, Greater Louisville Inc., IndyChamber, National Association of Women Business Owners, Roche Diagnostics Corporation, Salesforce, Melissa S. Brown & Associates, LLC; A Better Balance, AAUW Indianapolis Branch, ACLU Indiana, Building A Thriving Compassionate Community, Hoosier Action, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Indiana Community Action Association, Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation, Indiana Institute for Working Families, Indianapolis Urban League, Marion County, Commission on Youth, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, Unite Here Local 23, and Women4Change.