BZ 020416 Todd Weiler 02-1

Sen. Todd Weiler asks questions in a Senate Judiciary & Law Enforcement committee hearing at the Utah State Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.

It’s hard to believe that in the year 2016, in Utah, pregnant and nursing women have no guarantees that their needs will be respected and accommodated in the workplace.

After all, we have the highest birthrate in the nation, and Utah women are in the workplace at a higher rate than the national average. 

Try to imagine being in the workplace and having to take care of a biological need you cannot escape or put off. Then imagine that you step away from a task to deal with that need, but you are told to ignore the biological need and get back to work. Under current Utah law, such a bleak, regressive scenario can occur.

It’s harder for women to balance work with the responsibilities of being a mother. Pregnancy and breastfeeding require time and privacy. Women too often don’t get time to meet these needs. We see the results: a gender wage gap — women receiving lower pay for doing the same work as male counterparts. 

In the Utah Legislature, there’s an effort to improve the playing field. State Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, has sponsored Senate Bill 59, which requires employers with 15 or more employees to permit more bathroom breaks, time to sit down, and a private location to express breast milk. This bill provides more than a convenience for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It gives them a workplace right they should have had long ago.

Angie Osguthorpe, president of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, told Standard-Examiner reporter Cathy McKitrick that Senate Bill 59 has the chamber’s full support. “We not only think it’s the right thing to do, but we think that keeping women in the workplace is smart,” Osguthorpe said. 

This week, the House Business and Labor Committee approved SB59 by a 9-3 vote, moving it to the full House. It has already cleared the state Senate. 

Time is getting shorter in the legislative session. We urge legislators not to let this bill fade way. Without SB59’s protections, Utah women remain vulnerable for arbitrary discrimination while at work. SB59 gets rid of that threat of discrimination. It will produce better workers who can do their jobs effectively despite the challenge of a pregnancy.

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