SB59: Senate will consider bill that protects nursing moms

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SALT LAKE CITY– A committee passed a bill that would revise Utah’s anti-discrimination law so that pregnant and nursing women can take longer breaks and reduce their working hours.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, sponsored SB59 with support of the Utah Women’s Coalition that would allow pregnant and nursing women to have “reasonable accommodations.” The Senate Business and Labor Committee passed the bill 5-0 Tuesday, Jan. 26. It will next go to the Senate floor for consideration.

Single mother DelAnne Jessop Haslam out in the hall cheering up her daughter Presley.

Representatives from  ACLU of Utah, Planned Parenthood in Utah, and Voices for Utah Children backed the Women’s Coalition to testify and talk about how SB59 will benefit pregnant and breastfeeding women across Utah.

Stephanie Pitcher, coordinator of the Utah Women’s Coalition, said, “[About] 61 percent of women in Utah work, which is above the national average of 59 percent. ‘Reasonable accommodations’ means having something as simple as a stool or a place to sit down on, light lifting duties. The bill strives to have the right balance to not overburden employers.”

Single mother DelAnne Jessop Haslam shared her experiences with work and pregnancy. While her friend held her 20-month old girl Presley, Haslam recounted how her pregnancy affected her work performance.

Haslam talked about how she requested to have her eight-hour shift cut back to six hours. To her dismay, her supervisor was not willing to work with her. Haslam explained, “I even directed [my employer] to the current law. But it did not matter [to my employer].”

Haslam said without less hours she had to take a month’s leave from work. She said, “I was begging for my job. They refused to let me go back to work. They told me I was even lucky that they let me leave.”

Stephanie Pitcher explaining SB59 and how it will benefit pregnant and nursing mothers in the workplace.

A few weeks before giving birth, Haslam was fired. Haslam was overwhelmed with emotion as she described what happened to her next. “I lost my health insurance, lost my marriage, and I was on food stamps and Medicaid,” she said. “I want to be able to take care of myself and my child, now as a single mother.”

Dorothy Bradford also spoke about her feelings about the bill. She argued that employers are not foes, that they need to make sure that they are profitable. Bradford also expressed concerns about how the bill could open a door for discrimination type charges. She expressed her beliefs as she said, “Employers aren’t enemies, they simply need their businesses to run.”

Weiler closed his presentation about the bill by clarifying that the bill will only affect businesses with 15 employers or more. Weiler feels that many of the Utah businesses are already complying with the bill.

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