May 21, 2020

Pregnant worker anti-discrimination law goes into effect

Matthew Reichbach

The Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act, signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March, went into effect Wednesday.

Terrelene Massey, executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said the new law could affect anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 workers in New Mexico each year.

The law amends the state’s Human Rights Act to make pregnancy, childbirth and conditions related to either a protected class from employment discrimination. Sponsored by two Democrats, Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, and Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerrillos, the new law allows pregnant people to ask their employer for “reasonable accommodations,” to enable the pregnant worker to keep working. The “reasonable accommodations” could be things like asking for more bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on, the ability to get time off for prenatal care or having water at a workstation, according to the law’s advocates.

Related: Guv signs bill protecting pregnant workers

If an employer disagrees, the worker can file a complaint with the state’s Human Rights Bureau before a complaint could be filed with the courts. The bill received broad support from a variety of groups, including the New Mexico Hospitality Association. Anti-abortion groups such as the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico and the Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico spoke in support of the bill during the legislative session, as did abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and Indigenous Women Rising.

Massey said the law is especially important during the pandemic and the current climate of economic uncertainty.

“It’s an opportunity to keep a job in a safe manner,” she said.

Massey said the Southwest Women’s Law Center is doing outreach to help both businesses and employees understand the new law. The center will hold a virtual meeting at 12 p.m. on June 11 to discuss it. Contact the Southwest Women’s Law Center for more information on how to participate in the meeting online.

“We can be a resource about what the law means,” Massey said.