Protections in Pregnant Workers Act make sense

Published 6:25 pm Monday, April 1, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Women who work while pregnant will have the right to “reasonable accommodations” from their employer if Gov. Matt Bevin signs the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act.

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The act passed the legislature on the final day of the 2019 General Assembly. It puts into law many common-sense rules that should have already been there.

The act — sponsored by Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) — requires employers to work with a pregnant employee on what kinds of accommodations will allow her to keep working safely, but it doesn’t overstep by requiring employers to do everything and anything.

Possible accommodations as outlined in the act include “more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, appropriate seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, modified work schedule, and private space that is not a bathroom for expressing breast milk.”

The act doesn’t mandate any or all of those items; instead, it states that “the employer and employee shall engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations.” In other words, since every pregnancy is different, employers and employees should be allowed to come up with different solutions that work for everyone.

The act does not require accommodations that would put an “undue hardship” on the employer, such as changes that would be cost-prohibitive given the size of the business. And it only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees.

It’s harder and harder for families to make it by on only one income, which means more and more moms don’t have the option to choose whether to work or not. Keeping moms-to-be and new moms employed and safe means their kids can also be safe and well cared for.

There are benefits for the economy, too: This act makes it possible for more people to continue working, which means it can be considered a jobs bill in addition to a rights bill.

Kentucky needs more legislation like this that makes having a job better. The more beneficial it is to have a job, the more people will be incentivized to work.

We also like that the bill isn’t just focused on pregnancy and blind to what happens after a baby is born. The protections for breastfeeding make it easier for mothers to keep their babies healthy and growing in the best way possible.

The bill protects the rights of pregnant women and new moms without trampling on the rights of employers. And it does so with sensible reforms and an eye to the future. It shouldn’t have taken until 2019 to enact these reforms, but now that they’re here, the legislators who passed them deserve some credit.