February 14, 2020

Pregnant Worker Accommodation easily advances from Senate panel

Laura Paskus

A bill that would protect pregnant workers passed 6-0 in the Senate Public Affairs Committee in a jovial, bipartisan mood Thursday night.

HB 25 amends the state Human Rights Act to protect pregnant workers or new moms from discriminatiom. 

Democratic Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerillos, and Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, are sponsoring the bill.

The accommodations the bill allows for are things such as water at a workstation, extra bathroom breaks and a stool. Also, an employer could not force a pregnant worker to take time off from work due to pregnancy.

The bill passed the House floor 65-0 last week. It also passed two House committees – the House Judiciary Committee and the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee – last month. The House Judiciary Committee amended the bill to remove the words, “for as long as necessary,” from a line that defined what “reasonable accommodations,” means. The Fiscal Impact Report stated that “for as long as necessary” was ambiguous and didn’t give guidance in determining how long “necessary” meant.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Public Affairs Committee expressed support for the bill. Sen. Craig Brandt, a Republican from Rio Rancho, said this is a bill that “we can all agree on.”

“Those of us who are pro-life, we should always support mothers,” Brandt said.

This is the fourth iteration of the bill that has tried to pass the legislature, Stefanics said.

Because of the amendment, the lobbying groups, the New Mexico Hospitality Association, the Association of Commerce and Industry and anti-abortion group Family Alliance Policy supported the bill.

Because both anti-abortion and abortion-rights as well as industry groups spoke in support of the bill, the committee and individuals standing in support of the bill some began to joke and call it “an historic day.”

Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said his department supports the bill. 

Sen. Candace Gould, R-Albuquerque, said this was an example of when “our government works best.”

“When we have issues, we come together. When we come together then we can really work it out,” she said.

The bill will next go before the Senate Judiciary Committee.