The Indiana Legislature is failing to explore reasonable pregnancy accommodations during the 2020 interim session. During the 2020 session, legislators said they need additional research on the issue before they can enact laws protecting pregnant women. But now, they’ve refused to gather further information. This is a huge blow to Hoosier women. The willful ignorance of the legislature on commonsense protections for pregnant workers threatens women’s health and the health of their babies.
Pregnant workers, especially in low-wage or physically demanding positions, may need a water bottle, place to sit, or more frequent breaks throughout the work day. These accommodations promote healthy pregnancies and healthy babies as well as remove the burden from the employee to advocate for herself and eliminate any questions of procedure for the employer by clearly stating the appropriate accommodations
Senate Bill 342, introduced during the 2020 legislative session, would have guaranteed reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. A similar bill circulated in the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions, and Governor Holcomb included pregnancy accommodations in his 2020 legislative agenda. Despite the fact that this piece of legislation is long overdue, the bipartisan bill failed to garner enough support to pass during the 2020 session. Some legislators claimed they lacked information and research on this topic, and instead proposed an interim study to investigate pregnancy and childbirth accommodations and the financial impact on Indiana businesses. However, summer study committees were recently announced, and once again, these practical accommodations for Hoosier women have been left off the list.
These protections are particularly crucial in Indiana, where we have embarrassingly high rates of infant mortality and premature births. In 2018, nearly half of infant deaths in Indiana were attributed to perinatal risks, and the overall infant mortality rate increased in 2019. Furthermore, in 2019 Indiana was ranked 43rd worst in infant mortality and 48th worst in maternal mortality. Prolonged standing or highly physical work have been shown to have detrimental effects on pregnancies, including higher rates of premature birth. It is likely that the lack of legislation guaranteeing pregnancy accommodations is impacting healthy pregnancies in our state.
A pregnancy accommodations law would also bolster economic security for women and their families and boost the overall economy in Indiana, by ensuring pregnant women do not have to make the impossible choice between continuing to work and carrying a healthy pregnancy.
This conversation has a place on the national stage as well. The ACLU of Indiana recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with Indiana Institute for Working Families, Women4Change and effected community members to lobby Indiana members of Congress for similar worker accommodations through the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), which would provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers across the United States.
By declining to study pregnant worker accommodations over the summer, the Indiana General Assembly has yet again, put Hoosier women’s rights on the back burner. It’s on our legislators to ensure no Hoosier woman should have to choose between risking their jobs or their pregnancies, and by failing to seek further information, lawmakers will be just as uninformed next session, and women and their babies will be just as unprotected. The ACLU of Indiana will continue to advocate for these measures throughout the 2021 legislative session.