OLYMPIA – Legislation requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace today passed the Washington state House of Representatives on a unanimous vote and will be sent to the Governor for signature into law.
Senate Bill 5835 will provide several new protections for tens of thousands of pregnant women in Washington workplaces, including more frequent restroom breaks, readily accessible drinking water, food and seating, and scheduling flexibility for prenatal doctors’ visits. The legislation also imposes evidence-based lifting limits and manual labor accommodations.
“I am thrilled to make this positive step forward with the Legislature advancing the cause of equality with these needed rights for the working women of Washington,” said sponsor of the bill Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines. “These measures will help secure economic stability and promote positive health outcomes for women and their babies. I also want to thank my colleague Rep. Jessyn Farrell who sponsored the companion bill, HB 1796.”
“Women shouldn’t have to choose between being able to work and provide for their families, and having a healthy pregnancy,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. “Both employers and employees will now have more clarity with regards to workplace accommodations for expectant mothers, and the important work of improving health outcomes for mothers and babies will continue.”
The bill also establishes the Healthy Pregnancy Advisory Committee tasked with developing strategies for improving maternal and infant health outcomes. The maternal mortality and infant mortality rates in Washington state are higher than those of many other countries, including Canada and Cuba. The committee, under the auspices of the Department of Health, will look at other steps Washington health care providers and policy makers can take to make progress for healthy outcomes.