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Indiana Senate OKs optional pregnant worker accommodations

Indiana legislators gave final approval to a bill that won’t require businesses to make accommodations for pregnant workers, despite an appeal from Gov. Eric Holcomb for a law requiring more protections.

Posted: Apr 7, 2021 9:40 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana legislators gave final approval to a bill that won’t require businesses to make accommodations for pregnant workers, despite an appeal from Gov. Eric Holcomb for a law requiring more protections.

The proposal allows a pregnant employee to request accommodations and requires the employer to respond in a reasonable time frame, but it does not mandate managers to grant any of the requests.

Such steps, such as longer breaks or transfers to less physical work, are cast by supporters as ways of improving Indiana’s infant mortality rate, which federal statistics show was the country’s 14th worst in 2018 with 525 infant deaths.

But Republicans who dominate the Legislature have sided with major business groups rather than the GOP governor on the issue. Lawmakers also rejected a separate Holcomb-backed bill last year that would have ensured similar accommodations.

“If we truly set forth to provide support and accommodations to pregnant workers to help ensure that they can get the help they need at work to stay healthy and safe through a pregnancy, then this is not the bill,” said Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder, of Bloomington. “What this ends up doing is it gives legislators an opportunity to pat ourselves on the back to say we did something, we passed this, when really it’s more of a slap in the face of pregnant workers.”

The latest measure passed the House in February by a 95-2 votes as even lawmakers wanting tougher regulations supported it as a way of getting some protections for women into state law. Senators voted 31-19 on the bill Tuesday, sending the measure Holcomb.

Federal laws already require larger companies to provide pregnancy accommodations, but top Holcomb administration health officials have advocated for the state accommodations requirement as a way of helping pregnant women who don’t face clear rules in the workplace.

The governor said after the House advanced the weaker bill in February that his goal was “not going to come to fruition, that’s been a message received” from lawmakers.

Holcomb said he would issue an executive order ensuring such accommodations for state employees to demonstrate to business owners how such accommodations can work. He has yet to issue such an order.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said many lawmakers were hesitant to put more regulations on businesses, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some major business groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, additionally raised worries about possibly exposing more businesses to lawsuits by requiring them to provide accommodations.

“I feel that many women will come forward because of this bill. And the good companies will accommodate them. And the bad eggs — they won’t,” said bill author Republican Sen. Ron Alting, of Lafayette. “When you’ve been around this chamber a while, you’ll learn once in a while you better take what you can get. For many of us this bill is not far enough ... but it's a step in the right direction.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 709455

Reported Deaths: 13234
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion967001722
Lake51824946
Allen39279673
Hamilton34580406
St. Joseph34207541
Elkhart27376432
Vanderburgh22091394
Tippecanoe21886212
Porter17952299
Johnson17556374
Hendricks16837310
Clark12705190
Madison12358337
Vigo12226244
Monroe11484166
LaPorte11175204
Delaware10374184
Howard9677211
Kosciusko9152114
Hancock8000139
Bartholomew7896155
Warrick7698155
Floyd7567176
Wayne6910198
Grant6852171
Boone6562100
Morgan6404138
Dubois6086117
Marshall5792109
Dearborn570776
Cass5689102
Henry5582101
Noble542683
Jackson493970
Shelby479895
Lawrence4347118
Gibson429089
Harrison428970
Clinton420253
Montgomery418386
DeKalb412184
Whitley381439
Huntington380180
Miami373265
Knox367089
Steuben366657
Putnam353360
Jasper351346
Wabash347878
Adams338153
Ripley334968
Jefferson313280
White308554
Daviess289699
Wells286681
Decatur279192
Fayette277362
Greene270785
Posey269133
Scott261553
LaGrange254270
Clay253545
Randolph235880
Washington231131
Spencer228031
Jennings225147
Fountain208945
Sullivan207942
Starke205452
Owen192656
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181036
Orange178053
Rush170824
Vermillion166143
Franklin165635
Tipton161043
Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130334
Pulaski114045
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97113
Martin82915
Warren80115
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

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