This joint piece with Voices for Children originally appeared in the Omaha World Herald.

As working moms, we strongly believe that no pregnant working mom in Nebraska should have to choose between her health and the economic stability of her family.

No matter where any voter falls on the political spectrum, this should be an issue we can all agree on.

Thankfully, due to the leadership of State Sen. Heath Mello, the Nebraska Legislature just passed an important bill, with strong bipartisan support and no votes in opposition, to do just that.

Nebraska now joins a growing number of states and municipalities that are finding solutions to update our employment laws to support pregnant working moms. This is good news for Nebraska.

These protections are particularly important in Nebraska. Approximately 71 percent of women who give birth in Nebraska are working. More than one in five pregnant moms in Nebraska are stressed about paying bills during their pregnancy. When job-related accommodations aren’t made for pregnancy, it can put families in an economically vulnerable situation at a time when their household expenses are about to increase.

Those who testified in the Legislature shared stories of women who were forced off the job because of their pregnancies. One woman, as reported by Sen. Mello, ended up without pay or benefits after she informed her employer she was not to lift more than 25 pounds.

Now our congressional delegation has an opportunity to make a positive difference for all working moms across the country. That is why a coalition of Nebraska organizations recently sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse to thank them for supporting a budget amendment calling for reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

We hope that the entire Nebraska congressional delegation will take the next step and support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to update our employment laws to make sure they meet the needs of our modern workforce. Protections for pregnant workers similar to what Nebraska passed should become part of federal law.

The law passed in Nebraska, like the proposed federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, allows pregnant women to do their jobs and support their families by requiring employers to make the same sorts of accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions that they do for disabilities.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include the temporary reassignment of heavy-lifting duties, allowing a stool for a position that normally requires standing or providing temporary modifications to food, drink or bathroom break policies. The act would also ensure that pregnant workers aren’t discriminated against for requesting accommodations or forced to take accommodations or leave that they don’t need.

For a business, providing temporary accommodations to a pregnant worker is often cheaper than finding and training a new employee. The impact of providing accommodations is minimal, given that less than 2 percent of the overall workforce is comprised of pregnant workers during any given year.

Fischer and Sasse and the Nebraska Legislature have already demonstrated sound support for pregnant workers. We hope all members of the Nebraska congressional delegation will put their full support behind the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

No mother in any state should be forced to choose between a job and a healthy pregnancy.

 

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