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Bipartisan bill would protect pregnant workers

Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, is pictured speaking on the House of Representatives floor.

By John Whittaker

jwhittaker@post-journal.com

Bipartisan legislation proposed in both houses of the state Legislature would provide job protection for pregnant women.

Rep. Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland, and Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Delaware/Montgomery, have introduced House Bill 990/Senate Bill 716 to require Pennsylvania employers to provide “reasonable” workplace accommodations for pregnant women.

“Three-quarters of women entering the labor force will be pregnant and employed at some point in their lives,” Delozier and Cappelletti wrote in their legislative memorandum. “Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination continues to be a problem in Pennsylvania and across the country. Pregnant workers are often forced out of the workplace, or required to work in unsafe conditions, leading to long-term detrimental impacts on both their health and their family’s economic security.”

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment.

Under federal law, a woman who is unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer or other covered entity must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees.

Despite the federal legislation, there are 12 states that have passed similar legislation, according to Cappelletti and Delozier. While Cappelletti found a Republican to sponsor the legislation in the state House of Representatives, she has not yet garnered any Republicans to co-sponsor S.716. Only one House Republican — Mark Gillen, R-Berks/Lancaster — has signed on as a co-sponsor with Delozier.

“This legislation will make it unlawful for an employer to refuse an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation, unless doing so would represent an undue hardship to the employer,” Cappelletti and Delozier wrote in their legislative memorandum. “Reasonable accommodations include providing periodic rest or a chair for an employee who stands for a long period of time, assistance with heavy lifting, access to drinking water, uncompensated break time and temporary job restructuring. Additionally, the legislation will forbid employers from denying employment opportunities to employees based on their request for accommodations. I believe this is a common sense proposal that protects the health of pregnant persons, while at the same time not imposing a significant burden on our state’s employers.”

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