Senate OKs protections for pregnant, breastfeeding women

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Breastfeeding pump

Utah Senators on Tuesday passed a bill to protect pregnant and breastfeeding women in the workplace.

Senate Bill 59, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee who’s pregnant or breastfeeding, unless it would create an undue hardship for the employer. It also would prohibit denying employment opportunities to an employee if the only reason for the denial is that the employer would need to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy or breastfeeding.

“If something is unreasonable or it’s something that would be burdensome, then you say no and this law would not require you to follow it.” —Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross

What it doesn’t do is require employers to allow children in the workplace, build a room for breastfeeding, dedicate a conference room for breastfeeding or anything else that would be significantly difficult or expensive, Weiler said. It’s about giving women an extra break to pump breast milk, an extra bathroom break or a stool to sit on — if requested — so they don’t have to stand. It’s about pumping breast milk and storing it to take home, not feeding a child at work.

“So they’re going to do what I call what my wife did, milking,” said Sen. Scott Jenkins, D-Plain City.

He questioned whether the protection was necessary. “Most employers already do these kinds of things where possible. I don’t think we need a law to tell us we have to do these kinds of things.”

But Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said the law would protect employers too, because if they make a reasonable accommodation for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, they won’t have to agree to the same accommodations for the rest of the employees who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, worried about employers who can’t make accommodations, like mine operators, because an extra break would require 30 minutes to get out of a mine.

“If something is unreasonable or it’s something that would be burdensome, then you say no and this law would not require you to follow it,” Weiler said.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Amie Rose has more than 14 years of experience writing and editing at newspapers in Utah and New Mexico. She graduated from BYU with a degree in journalism. She lives in Utah Valley with her husband, toddler and crazy dog.

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