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NH Senate Considers Workplace Protections for Pregnant Women

Supporters of an anti-discrimination measure to protect pregnant women in New Hampshire workplaces say they're optimistic that SB 488 will pass. (Granite State Progress)
Supporters of an anti-discrimination measure to protect pregnant women in New Hampshire workplaces say they're optimistic that SB 488 will pass. (Granite State Progress)
March 21, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. - The goal is to allow Granite State women to remain in the workforce during pregnancy. A measure to provide them reasonable accommodations by local employers is headed this week to the full state Senate.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director for the Granite State Progress Education Fund, says the bill covers simple accommodations, such as more frequent or longer breaks, that employers could easily offer expectant mothers.

She says all too often, companies unfairly treat pregnancy as a liability.

"Pregnancy discrimination complaints are actually on the rise nationally, and nearly 70 percent of New Hampshire women do work throughout their pregnancy," says Rice Hawkins. "So, it's really important they have these workplace protections that guard against discrimination."

But Senate Bill 488 is being questioned by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, which says expansive protections already are available.

Despite that stance, the bill passed in the New Hampshire Senate Commerce Committee last week and is expected to reach the Senate floor by Thursday.

Rice Hawkins says all the bill does is ask employers to provide basic accommodations so pregnant women don't have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and their job.

"Things like being able to sit at a stool if you work at a cashier's desk," she says. "Or to be able to carry a bottle of water with you on the floor of a manufacturing plant, because these are things that are reasonable needs that a pregnant woman would have."

She adds New Hampshire would be following a national trend in recognizing that, with more women in the workforce, better protections are needed.

"If it becomes law, New Hampshire would join 15 other states, the District of Columbia and four cities that already passed laws requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers," says Rice Hawkins.

The Granite State measure closely follows the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which is sponsored by both Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH