Washington lawmakers push new workplace protections for pregnant women

OLYMPIA, Wash. — While state law protects workers with disabilities and requires employers make accommodations for them, a large part of the workforce has no protection — pregnant women.

But as the legislative session gets rolling this week, a group of lawmakers is aiming to make it a little easier for expectant mothers on the job, KIRO Radio reports.

When state representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Lake City) was pregnant with her second child, it happened to come in the middle of a legislative session. And as any mom can relate, it wasn't always the easiest to schlep around the capitol and work all those long hours in the latter stages of her pregnancy.

Lucky for her, she could get some accommodations to make things a little more manageable -— as simple as extra pillows, a more comfortable chair.

Other working women aren't necessarily as fortunate.

"I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a grocery worker or someone who works in a warehouse and needing to advocate for herself during her pregnancy," said the mother of two.

So Farrell is leading the charge on a new bill that would require employers to make what she calls simple, reasonable accommodations for pregnant women.

"I see this bill as important because women make up half the workforce," Farrell said.

She says the measure is "extremely reasonable," and has widespread bipartisan support.

"For example, more frequent bathroom breaks or maybe a little scheduling flexibility so that they could make a doctor's appointment. Or as another example, if they're a checker, maybe they could have a foot stool or something like that," she said.

It's inevitable some employers will complain, saying it's more unnecessary, meddlesome and potentially costly government regulation.

But Farrell insists employers will play a big part in helping craft a fair and reasonable bill.

"One of the nice things about going into a legislative process is you really get to have a dialogue and I am working with businesses, in particular small businesses, to make sure that this bill works for them," she said.

The House labor committee will begin discussing the measure at hearing Tuesday in Olympia.

A companion measure bill with widespread support has also been introduced in the Senate.

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.