New Protections for Pregnant Workers

(Montpelier) – A law just passed in Vermont that will provide protections for employees experiencing healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies who need workplace accommodations such as having access to water, access to a chair, longer or more frequent restroom breaks, or avoiding heavy lifting.

“Everyone benefits from laws that support a fair work-family balance,” said Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, whose office will enforce the new law in the private sector.  “For decades, Vermont employers have been doing a great job accommodating workers with disabilities.  Applying that same positive mindset to helping out expectant or new mothers makes sense and is the right thing to do.”

Vermont joins nineteen other states (including Washington, D.C.) in passing similar legislation, and currently, at least seven states have similar bills pending.

Advocates for maternal and child health were in full support of this protection.  “Reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnancy, or a pregnancy-related condition, enable moms-to-be and new moms to stay at work. The March of Dimes is very pleased that Vermont lawmakers have supported this important legislation,” said Abby Rogers, March of Dimes Director of Advocacy and Government Relations for the Northeast Region.

Under this new law, Vermont employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers with pregnancy-related conditions, unless the accommodation imposes an undue hardship on the business. A worker’s pregnancy-related condition does not need to rise to the level of a disability in order for the employer to accommodate them. 

“Three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at some point in their lives. The majority of pregnant women in Vermont are employed during their pregnancies, and the majority of those pregnancies are healthy and uncomplicated,” stated Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women. “Sometimes a simple accommodation can make the difference between being able to continue working and having to take time off, and the strength of Vermont’s economy depends on women’s ability to remain in their jobs and support their families.”

Lead sponsor of this legislation, Representative George Till, of Jericho, an OB/GYN physician, commented, “In providing prenatal care to thousands of Vermont women over the years, I have seen far too many pregnant women for whom an employer would not make a reasonable accommodation.  I've seen people fired for asking for a completely reasonable accommodation.  I've seen people too afraid to ask for an accommodation because they feared losing their job just for asking.  I look forward to telling these women that Vermont law now protects them.”**

Vermont Commission on Women is a non-partisan state commission working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls. Sixteen volunteer commissioners and representatives from twenty-seven organizations concerned with women's issues guide VCW's public education, coalition building, and advocacy efforts.  For more information, please visit women.vermont.gov. Read VCW’s policy brief on this issue here.