Bill to provide work accommodations for pregnant Hoosiers passes committee

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A bill to provide work accommodations for pregnant women is moving forward in Indiana but not without opposition.

Some feel this law would only increase chances of litigation and hurt smaller companies.

Lawmakers are weighing those concerns with the startling number of infant and maternal deaths in the state.

The bill moves past the committee on a 7-2.

“I’d have preferred 9-0, but I’ll take two no votes," said the bill's author, State Sen. Ron Alting. "You know, for some reason, we just have some difficulties all the time on supporting rights in this building.”

Those opposed argued this law would hurt employer rights.

“It just might knock you out. Small organizations have one thing in common; they can’t take a punch," said Christopher Schrader of HR Indiana SHRM.

The bill lists what it calls “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women, such as a temporary transfer to a less hazardous position, assistance with physical labor or a modified work schedule.

Employers would need to provide them unless it causes an undue hardship on the company.

“The undue hardship provisions in this bill will not provide a defense for employers because the burden of proof is on them,” said Mike Ripley, Indiana Chamber of Commerce's vice president of health care policy and employment law.

Andrew Berger with the Indiana Manufacturers Association said that would require a business disclosing their financial situation to the Civil Rights Commission.

"That is not supported by our organization,” said Berger.

Those opposed also argue three federal laws already exist to protect pregnant workers: the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave act.

But Senator Alting argues those aren’t good enough.

“If it was working, you wouldn’t be ranked third in the nation in losing mothers and you wouldn’t be ranked seventh in the nation on losing infants,” said Alting.

The Indiana Manufacturers Association fears the bill won’t result in more rights for pregnant workers, but more lawsuits.

“If we do this you are going to get a lot of litigation, and we have a basic fundamental policy in our organization not to support added legal burdens upon our employees,” said Berger.

Alting disagrees, saying the law would encourage conversation between workers and their employer.

“Employees are afraid in a lot of cases to go to their employer and say, 'Can I just have a water break? Can I just have a snack break?' If you look at the twelve accommodations in the bill, that’s what they are. There’s nothing in there that is going to shake the earth,” said Alting.

Sen. Alting says this bill is expected to be heard again with a chance for amendments later this week.

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