Bill to require ‘reasonable accommodations’ to pregnant women at work passes on last day of legislative session

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that allows pregnant women “reasonable accommodations” while at work, and supports breastfeeding, passed on the last day of the legislative session. It awaits action by Gov. Matt Bevin, whose decision will be final because it passed on the last daySenate Bill 18, sponsored by Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington, gained final passage in the House on an 87-5 vote.

In presenting the bill to the House, Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, said it had the support of many business and pro-life groups, adding that 24 other states have passed similar laws. She stressed that the bill does not require mandatory paid parental leave.

The bill passed the Senate on 25-7 on Feb. 22, with an amendment that allows employers to choose from a list of accommodations rather than a mandatory list. It also removed a 10-day notice period for employers to alert pregnant employees of their rights, according to a state news release.

The “reasonable accommodations,” which include things like more frequent breaks or being moved to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, are limited to employers with 15 or more employees. Normal anti-discrimination law applies to those with eight or more employees. The bill also requires applicable employers to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for expressing breast milk.

“Providing clarity on this issue is badly needed in Kentucky,” Kerr said in presenting the bill to the Senate. “As things stand right now, the employer and employees are forced to navigate a complex web of federal law and case law which leads to confusion and frustration. It discourages workforce participation among our women.”

The American Civil Liberties Union called the bill’s passage a great victory for Kentucky families. “Senate Bill 18 provides much-needed clarity for employers and reasonable protections for pregnant workers to prevent problems before they start,” ACLU-KY Advocacy Director Kate Miller said in a news release. “After working with a broad array of partners for a number of years to pass these critical protections, we are thrilled the General Assembly brought this law to final passage.”