State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Bills would expand working mothers' protections

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 8, 2015 3:55 PM
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A pair of proposals before a state House committee would make employers make modest on-the-job tweaks requested by pregnant and nursing mothers, but business groups see problems with that.

One proposal would mandate that employers provide a pregnant worker's requested accommodations, such as periodic sitting breaks and temporary job "restructuring." Another measure would require employers to provide a clean and private space for nursing mothers to breast feed or pump.

At a hearing before the House Labor and Industry Committee, business interest groups said the legislation would leave their members vulnerable to lawsuits and discrimination claims.

"When we seek input from employers in Pennsylvania, they are viewing all these mandates through the lens of, 'when am I going to get hit?'" said Alex Halper with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. "Advocates for women's health are not the only ones reading these bills and following these stories. There is a very active and smart and aggressive claimants' attorney community that are waiting for these bills to pass also."

But Amal Bass, a lawyer with the Women's Law Project, said pregnant and nursing women should be able to count on clearly defined protections, which don't exist right now in Pennsylvania.

"The laws are very murky," Bass said. "Whether or not the law is going to protect a woman's right to either express breast milk in the workplace but more so related to the pregnancy discrimination - it depends on where they live, where they work, what type of job they have, how large an employer they work for."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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