POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Law requires employees to make accommodations for pregnant workers

Jun 29, 2023, 11:57 AM | Updated: 11:57 am

a pregnant woman writes on a paper, a new law seeks accommodations for pregnant workers...

(Richard Thomas/istockphoto)

(Richard Thomas/istockphoto)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new law that went into effect Tuesday provides a series of protections for those in the workplace who may be pregnant. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires covered employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for their pregnant employees. 

State Sen. Jennifer Plumb, D-Salt Lake City, told KSL at Night that legislation like this is important but complicated. 

 

What does this law do?

Plumb explained that this new legislation doesn’t replace other existing laws that are more protective of pregnancy workers. If anything, it just lays out the basics of accommodations for pregnant employees. 

“Who are the covered employers? Who are the employees?” she said. “It feels a little bit rudimentary to me honestly, admitting that I’m not an in-depth scholar on the policy itself.”

The bill gave examples of reasonable accommodations given to pregnant workers. Among these accommodations are providing seating, water, parking, flexible hours and more breaks. The bill cited a 2014 survey that found that workers sought breaks more than any other common pregnancy-related accommodation.

Despite the outline given by lawmakers, Plumb said there are still questions surrounding the specifics of this bill. How do you decide what “reasonable hours” are or how many breaks an employee can receive while pregnant? In those instances, Plumb said it is best to turn to the experts. 

“I would look to some of our folks that are specialists in this area to help us as a state,” she said. “Like, what does a reasonable accommodation mean?”

Starting the conversation

Along with laying out the basics, Plumb said this legislation can continue the conversations about the challenges women face in the workspace.

“I think that this coming into the dialogue gives us opportunity to say, ‘Okay, we care enough about this, we want to do more,'” she said.

The Chamber of Commerce found that Utah has the third largest gender pay gap in the nation with women making 37% less than men. Plumb said understanding limitations for women in the workplace like pay gaps and accommodations for pregnant workers is a good starting point. Now, litigation needs to reflect that understanding.

“All of these sorts of things that we hear swirling around in our policy lexicon? I would love to see us going further in those directions,” she said. “But what can we do in the support of moving women forward and keeping them supported?” 

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Law requires employees to make accommodations for pregnant workers