With Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s signature on Tuesday, half of U.S. states now have a simple rule on the books: Employers have to make small changes so that pregnant employees can remain in their jobs while also staying healthy.
In late March, Kentucky’s legislature overwhelmingly passed the Pregnant Workers Act, making it the 25th state in the country to pass this kind of legislation. Now that Bevin has added his signature, the state’s law will require employers to engage in conversations with pregnant employees about potential accommodations they may need to stay healthy and at work during their pregnancies, and to offer changes to them unless doing so would present an undue hardship. Some of those changes can be small, such as a stool to sit on, the ability to carry a water bottle, or more frequent breaks. Others who work in physically demanding jobs may need to be placed in light duty positions to protect their health.
That’s what happened to Kentucky residents Lyndi Trischler and Sam Riley. Both needed relief from their duties as patrol officers to protect their pregnancies at work: Trischler’s heavy gun belt and tight bullet-proof vest were causing her pain and health issues. But at the time, their city’s policy only allowed those with on-the-job injuries to participate in the light duty program, so they were pushed off the job and onto leave. The Department of Justice eventually got involved and issued a consent decree, and the city of Florence changed its policy.
However, the state’s new law “provides that clarity so that sort of situation doesn’t happen again,” said Elizabeth Gedmark, a senior staff attorney with A Better Balance, which represented Trischler and Riley and advocated for the bill. “If the Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act had been on the books, I don’t think there would have been the confusion where the city of Florence clearly was not…