HMHBGA

The Case for Workplace Accommodations in 2020

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On November 19, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHBGA) had the pleasure of attending the Southern Pregnant Workers Fairness Convening hosted by A Better Balance. During this convening, we were able to meet with organizations working on campaigns around state pregnancy workers fairness policies and states that effectively passed legislation. As a result, we gained lessons learned from successful state campaigns and connected with other organizations for resources and support.

Currently, 27 U.S. states have instituted legislation to ensure working women are protected from discrimination while pregnant or postpartum. The six southern states that have passed legislation include Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. For a complete list of states’ pregnant workers fairness laws visit here.

Georgia is one of the 23 remaining states without policy that guarantees reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childbirth, meaning pregnant workers who simply need a stool to sit on, water to stay hydrated or temporary relief from heavy lifting are vulnerable to termination. During the 2020 legislative session, HMHBGA will actively advocate for business-friendly and appropriate workplace accommodations as well as protections for pregnant and postpartum women.

Reasonable, low-cost accommodations such as adequate water and food breaks or access to a seat during the workday, help women stay on the job and support healthy pregnancies. The Kentucky Department of Public Health and Wellness addressed pregnant worker health concerns in their 2019 Pregnant Workers Health Impact Assessment; the report concluded that reasonable accommodations could allow pregnant workers to stay on the job and reduce negative health outcomes for mother and baby.

It is also important for employers to provide lactation policies to support families as they return to work, to improve Georgia’s breastfeeding duration rates. Only 22% of Georgia women are meeting the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months. Breastfeeding has been associated with a number of health benefits to a growing baby including reduced risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, diabetes, and obesity.

Finally, workplace accommodations help businesses by increasing employee retention and morale as well as reducing turnover. Women may be more inclined to stay in a job they know is supportive of their pregnancy and postpartum needs. This reduces turnover, thus saving employers training costs. Additionally, establishing protections for pregnant and postpartum employees also helps employers avoid costly litigation by providing explicit standards around discrimination. Clear guidelines will allow employers to better understand requirements for accommodations and standards around what may or may not be considered discrimination. This helps resolve problems before they arise and facilitates informal dispute resolution.

Are you interested in advocating for workplace accommodations in Georgia? Contact Amber Mack at amber.mack@hmhbga.org.