Illinois recently passed legislation that will protect pregnant women while they are on the job. It will provide accommodations for pregnant workers that will help support them during their pregnancy. Rosaura Villanueva, a warehouse worker, may provide the best example of a working mother who was unfairly discriminated against because she was pregnant. She explained, “I was pregnant at my job and my supervisor told me ‘quit your job or lose your baby.’ I know first-hand how important this new law is for pregnant workers.” Senator Toi Hutchinson, the sponsor of the original bill, stated: “In 2014, no woman should have to choose between a job or a career and the ability to provide for her family.”
Wendy Pollack, the Director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Shriver Center also expressed support for the bill given the type of woman that normally works throughout her pregnancy. She stated, “This legislation is especially important for low-income workers, who typically have the most physically demanding jobs and are least likely to have access to maternity leave and sick time. These women can’t afford to lose their jobs—along with their income, seniority, and often their employer-provided health insurance—due to the denial of a reasonable accommodation.”
Further, according to www.womenemployed.org, providing pregnant women with reasonable accommodations in the work place makes “good business sense” because it “increases worker productivity, retention, and morale, decreases re-training costs, and reduces health care costs associated with pregnancy complications.” Governor Quinn also voiced his support by stating: “The accommodations contained in this bill are simple, proper, and definitely needed. They give employees peace of mind and will lead to healthier mothers and babies. And they make Illinois a better place for our moms-to-be.”
The number of women who continue to work while they are pregnant has steadily increased since 1978. The National Women’s Law Center found that nearly two-thirds of first-time mothers continue to work while pregnant and most will work into their last month of pregnancy. In Illinois, 54% of the workforce is women of childbearing age. Unfortunately, along with the increase in pregnant workers, charges of pregnancy discrimination have also increased. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that these charges have increased 71% from 1992 to 2011.
The new law will provide accommodations for pregnant workers such as limits on heavy lifting, access to places to sit, increased bathroom breaks, maternity leave, and private, non-restroom space for breast-feeding or pumping. The measure also includes the ability to carry a water bottle on the job or the ability to have increased water breaks, something that the average employee may take for granted. The law also contains increased opportunities to adjust work schedules.
If you have questions about this new law or would like to know how it affects you, contact McCarthy, Callas & Feeney at 309-788-2800. We are happy to help with your legal needs.