CHICAGO – New guidelines aimed at preventing workplace discrimination against pregnant women were signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn this week, a move backers say extends protections already in place for other workers.
The legislation was prompted by safety and health concerns for expectant mothers and their children, said sponsors state Rep. Mary Flowers and Sen. Toi Hutchinson, both Democrats. Quinn’s office cited a federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity study showing a major increase – more than 70 percent – in the number of pregnancy discrimination claims from 1992 to 2011.
“No pregnant woman should have to choose between having her baby and keeping her job,” Quinn said Tuesday at a Chicago clinic during an event marking the signing. “That’s really what this law is all about.”
He signed the legislation late Monday, aides said.
The law, which takes effect in January 2015, extends workplace protections to pregnant women, including requiring employers to consider accommodations if asked. That includes limits on manual labor, time for more frequent bathroom breaks and space to breast-feed.
The law also said a pregnant woman can’t be forced to take a leave of absence when another workplace accommodation is available and an employer can’t refuse to hire a qualified applicant because of a required accommodation. The law outlined how complaints can be filed if an employee feels an employer isn’t complying.
During debate on the measure this year, opponents said they feared the plan would prompt a rise in lawsuits and could hurt small businesses.
But proponents, who called it a “pro-family law,” said it’s the same situation as an employee who has an injury affecting their work and asks for modified duties, such as being able to sit down or take breaks to rest.