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Momentum to Boost Protections for Pregnant Ohio Workers

Ohio is not among states with a law that specifically protects pregnant women on the job. (David Leo Veksler/Flickr)
Ohio is not among states with a law that specifically protects pregnant women on the job. (David Leo Veksler/Flickr)
February 26, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - For some women, pregnancy is difficult enough without having to worry about job security. In Ohio, some state leaders want to prevent workplace discrimination with regard to pregnancy and breastfeeding.

A federal law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, offers some protections for women. But Amanda Hoyt, director of the advocacy group Ohio Faith and Public Life, contended that many still feel they have to choose between pregnancy and their job.

"Specifically here in Ohio, I found 1,600 issues at our Ohio Civil Rights Commission, where women had complained about this kind of discrimination," she said. "It is something as simple as needing to carry a water bottle around with them while they're pregnant."

Hoyt said some employers force women to take unpaid time off or quit when they've requested accommodations - such as more work breaks, a seat or stool, or a place to express breast milk. Seventeen other states have passed similar laws protecting pregnant women on the job, and state Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, said she'll introduce a similar bill in Ohio in the coming weeks.

The bill only would apply to businesses with four or more workers, and Hoyt said it would require employers to offer reasonable and temporary accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers. She said the current draft of the legislation also considers the effects on employers.

"If a business isn't able to make an accommodation," she said, "they can actually claim undue hardship and say, 'We're just not financially able to do this, or it doesn't make sense in our business.' So, we don't want to cause an undue hardship on a business."

More than 150 faith leaders in Ohio have signed a letter in support of the measure. The text of the letter is online at faithinpubliclife.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH