A Bill: Colorado becomes the 17th state to expand safeguards for pregnant women
HB 16-1438 An Act Concerning the Provision of Reasonable Accommodations by an Employer for Persons Who Have a Condition Related to Pregnancy
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, signed legislation on June 1 requiring employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women or new mothers. That includes more frequent or longer breaks for food, water, or the bathroom; limitations on lifting; transfer to less strenuous or hazardous positions; assistance with manual labor; and modified work schedules. Employers are also barred from retaliating against women who ask for special arrangements.
Colorado is the 17th state to pass such a bill. The legislative wave follows a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that pregnant workers can claim they’re being discriminated against if their employers place a “significant burden” on them without justification. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also found that severe morning sickness, gestational diabetes, and other pregnancy-related conditions are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
There’s wide variation on how stringent state laws are. Louisiana requires only that pregnant women be allowed to transfer their duties. In Alaska and Texas, only public-sector workers are covered. But employers have good reason to stay ahead of these laws, says Liz Morris, deputy director of the Center for Worklife Law at UC Hastings College of the Law. Special arrangements for pregnancy, she notes, help retain workers and come with a built-in upside: “They are always temporary.”