Mom wants accommodations for pregnant workers

Jessyn Farrell is a Washington state representative

Washington State Rep. Jessyn Farrell at her oath of office ceremony, January 12, 2015 (Courtesy photo)
Washington State Rep. Jessyn Farrell at her oath of office ceremony, January 12, 2015 (Courtesy photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jessyn Farrell is a working mother. She knows sometimes women need a little extra flexibility during work and that reasonable accommodations sometimes need to be made.

So this working mother — who is also a Washington state representative — decided to do something about it. She introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

“The goal of the bill is to require employers to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant women,” Farrell told KOIN 6 News via Skype.

Washington State Rep. Jessyn Farrell at her oath of office ceremony, January 12, 2015 (Courtesy photo)
Washington State Rep. Jessyn Farrell at her oath of office ceremony, January 12, 2015 (Courtesy photo)

She was pregnant while she was in the legislature and said she found ways to make that accommodation.

“But it really makes me think hard about what it would be like to be a bus driver or a grocery worker or someone who may not be able to advocate for themselves the same way I was able to when I was pregnant.”

If it becomes law, House Bill 2307 would require employers — under the Washington law against discrimination — to provide reasonable accommodation for pregnant women unless that accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business.

Women make up about half the work force, she said. Her proposed bill isn’t designed to put an undue burden on a business, but instead make it easier for pregnant women to have a bathroom break, be able to eat or drink while on the job, modify their schedule or be able to sit more often.

She said she spoke to small business owners in her district in Lake City, Washington before proposing this bill. Farrell said “there’s very, very complicated federal and state law on this issue,” and she hopes to clear up gaps and confusion to provide clarity for employers.

House Bill 2307 – Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

In Vancouver, Yvonne Mitchell owns Vantucky Vintage at 613 Main Street. She said the proposed bill it more rules and regulations.

“I don’t see how it can help small, independent businesses that women own,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time it’s very hard. I’ve had 2 children and it’s very hard to work and be pregnant.”

Clare Kachmar, who lives in Vancouver, said she thinks “it’s great for businesses to have compassion, generosity for women.”

It’s a long way before this proposed bill becomes Washington law. It just had a hearing in a committee.

But Farrell believes these reasonable accommodations are important so pregnant workers won’t have to “make those really awful choices between health and personal economics.”

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