By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott has signed into law a bill that gives pregnant women the same accommodations in the workplace as people with disabilities.
Scott signed H.136 on May 4 with no fanfare.
The law, now called Act 21 of 2017, gives pregnant women accommodation under disability laws. The Senate streamlined the bill to make it simpler than a House version of the bill, which drew opposition.
“This is great news for a lot of women in Vermont,” said Cary Brown, the executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women. “This is really about letting women be able to stay at work when they want to be working, but only need small accommodations to do so.”
Brown said disability laws already protect women who experience pregnancy-related disabilities, but not women who experience healthy pregnancies. She said the commission heard from women who needed, for example, uniforms that fit them or a water bottle at their work station, and the employers did not accommodate them.
“We really look at this as an economic equity issue,” Brown said. “Women need to be able to keep going to work to support their families, and for some women this helps them keep their jobs. … This is the kind of thing that doesn’t affect a lot of people, but the people that it does affect, it makes a huge difference for them.”
Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said in a press release: “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.”
Attorney General TJ Donovan’s office will enforce the law. He said in a statement: “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.”