Pregnancy accommodation bill heads to full Senate for action

Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, calls his bill requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees “common sense.”

Legislation that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant or breastfeeding women in the workplace advances to the full Senate after a committee approved the bill Monday.

Senate Bill 342, authored by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, passed the Family and Child Services Committee by a 7-2 vote over the objections of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The bill requires that employers with 15 or more employees provide reasonable accommodations when requested unless it places an undue hardship on the employer.

Alting, in his testimony, noted that Indiana currently ranks third in the nation on maternal mortality and seventh in the nation in infant mortality.

Some of the accommodations listed in the bill include more frequent and longer breaks, unpaid time off, a seat to sit when needed and temporary transfer to a less hazardous working condition.

“You will see numerous, numerous letters of support from a variety of organizations for this bill,” Alting said, “including Mitch Daniels who never ever gives a comment under legislation. He was the most pro-business governor the state of Indiana could ever have.”

Susan Brock Williams of Purdue University read a letter from former Gov. Mitch Daniels urging lawmakers to approve the legislation. She noted that Daniels, now president of Purdue, has rarely weighed in on legislation since leaving the governor’s office.

“Despite the tremendous progress Indiana has made in the past decade and a half, our state continues to rank near the top in the number of deaths for mothers and their infant children during and post childbirth,” Williams read from Daniels’ letter. “Purdue encourages the General Assembly to pass SB 342 and continue our state’s progress in supporting healthy mothers and families.”

But Mike Ripley of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said his organization is not contesting the importance of the legislation, but members are worried about the impact on small businesses.

“Many of our employers that are larger employers and have significant resources are already doing this,” Ripley said. “And they should be. They should be doing the things in this bill… What I want you to realize, this bill the way it’s written, large employers ought to be doing it currently because they have the resources to do so.”

SB 342 has the support of the Gov. Eric Holcomb and members of his administration. Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, and Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Family and Social Services Administration, testified in favor of the bill.

Haley Carney is a reporter with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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