Employers in Kentucky would be required to provide pregnant workers with more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth and temporary transfer to less strenuous duties under a bill that passed out of a legislative committee on Thursday.
The “Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act” would also require employers to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for breast feeding.
Elizabeth Gedmark is an attorney with family rights advocacy group A Better Balance. She said protections currently in place under the federal Disability Rights Act aren’t enough.
“The problem is if you’re healthy and do not have a disability and you simply want an accommodation to prevent an injury or a problem before it starts, that’s where there’s the lack of coverage,” Gedmark said.
Gedmark represented two police officers from Florence who filed a discrimination complaint against the city, prompting the city to award them $135,000 in damages and change its policies.
State law currently doesn’t guarantee employment protections for pregnant workers.
Senate Bill 18 would require employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees unless doing so would be an undue hardship or if they employ fewer than eight workers.
Sen. Dan Seum, a Republican from Louisville, said that the policy would be burdensome on business owners, saying “you can always tell when those on the committee have never owned and operated a business.”
“After a while you start hiring defensively, you pay attention to who you hire. You don’t hire a problem,” Seum said. “And we’re going to head down this road somewhere along the way, you might just be inclined to hire a woman over 40.”
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Republican from Lexington and the bill’s sponsor, responded by saying “it’s always easy to tell who on these committees has never been pregnant.”
Greater Louisville Inc., Louisville’s chamber of commerce, voiced support for the proposal, calling it “pro-business, pro-workforce.”
The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and can now be voted on by the full Senate.
A similar version advanced last year but never passed out of the Senate.
This story has been corrected. It previously referred to the proposal as the “Pregnant Workers Rights Act,” but it is the “Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act.”