(CBS) — A proposal in Springfield aims to protect pregnant women in Illinois against workplace discrimination.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports employers would face civil rights violations if they failed to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers to allow them to continue to work, under a measure approved by the House Labor & Commerce Committee.
American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Ed Yohnka said the ACLU has heard from several workers, including a Chicago woman who lost her baby due to the heavy lifting she was required to do for her job at a shipping company, after her supervisor refused to give her different tasks.
“When other male workers were injured, they got shifted so they didn’t have to do such heavy lifting. She wasn’t permitted to do so during her pregnancy,” he said.
Yohnka said most businesses in the state already make accommodations for pregnant employees, such as additional seating, or more bathroom and water breaks.
However, he said the ACLU has received complaints about pregnant workers being denied some of the most basic necessities on the job.
“Something as simple as women being denied the right to carry a bottle of water at work in order to stay hydrated, both for herself and for the baby,” he said. “Something as simple as having a stool to lean against, instead of standing up.”
A representative of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said the legislation’s premise is that employers are “bad, evil people,” and it would give companies another reason to move out of state.
The chamber also said state and federal laws already provide the needed protection, and the measure under consideration would lead to a slew of lawsuits against employers, because the language is too vague.
The group said it would support some protections for pregnant women in the workplace, but the current measure is too broad as it stands.