A state bill that will provide additional protections for pregnant women in the workplace moved one step closer to becoming a law on Monday.
The bill, S-2995, passed the Assembly and has been sent to the governor's office. It would augment the existing federal law, which prevents employers from firing or refusing to hire pregnant women, by adding regulations for how pregnant women are treated on the job.
"The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act was an important step forward for workplace equality because it outlawed overt and blatant discrimination of pregnant women who were regularly fired or refused employment," Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinber, one of the lead sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement. "However, pregnancy discrimination persists. In fact, complaints about unfair treatment due to pregnancy have increased substantially with more women in the workforce."
In New Jersey, 64 percent of women who gave birth were employed that same year, according to 2010 data cited in a news release.
Among them, low-wage workers are particularly susceptible to pregnancy related discrimination since they are more likely to have physicially demanding jobs and "less obliging" employers, Weinberg said.
If women lose their jobs while pregnant, that means not just lost income, but lost insurance coverage as well, she added.
To ensure pregnant women are protected in the workplace, the new legislation would require employers to make "feasible accommodations" for them to work safely throughout their pregnancy. That could include permission to take frequent bathroom breaks and carry water bottles or transfer to less physically demanding or hazardous positions.
"When pregnant women are denied reasonable accommodations, they often have no choice but to continue in their jobs under unhealthy conditions, risking their own health, as well as that of their babies," Senator Fred Madden, another lead sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. "If they lose their jobs, they lose critical income for themselves and their families and they can later struggle to re-enter a job market that is especially brutal for mothers with infants."
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