By Hedy Gutfreund, Summer Intern

Pregnancy shouldn’t be a firing offense, but time and time again, when pregnant women ask their employers for reasonable accommodations, they are shown the door.

Guadalupe, a pregnant fast food worker in Illinois, was denied necessary bathroom breaks and then fired. Then there was a pregnant mother of four from Centralia who worked at an assisted-living home for people with disabilities. She was fired because her employer refused to accommodate her temporary pregnancy-related lifting restrictions. Although she gave birth to a healthy baby, she has no job or financial stability.

No woman should have to choose between her health or family and her job security, and after today Illinois women won’t have to.

This morning, Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 8 into law, a milestone for women and families in Illinois. The law requires all employers to make the reasonable accommodations pregnant workers need, so they can preserve their health, their babies’ health, and their jobs. It also continues a trend among state governments of extending workplace protections to pregnant women.

Workplace protection is nothing new. Many workers expect that when they have a condition, like a back injury, that temporarily affects their ability to work they will receive reasonable accommodations, such as temporary light duty. They expect that their bosses won’t blame them or threaten to make them choose between their health and their jobs.

But for pregnant women, things have been different. Pregnant women are often denied common sense accommodations, such as a stool to sit on, a bottle of water, more frequent bathroom breaks, or temporary light duty. Far too often, they continue to work without necessary accommodations, forced to risk their health and pregnancies. Pregnancy – which marks a time of joy for many women – can become a source of great stress.
HB 8 recognizes pregnancy discrimination as gender discrimination and an attack on women’s economic security and equality. It does not give special treatment to pregnant women; rather, it gives them equal treatment. Pregnant women will now receive the same accommodations that workers with temporary disabilities already get.

Because of this new law, women in the workplace no longer have to fear being punished – financially or physically – for being pregnant or for being women. With proper enforcement, Illinois’ new law should ensure that the stories from woman like Guadalupe become a thing of the past in our state.

Thanks to the leadership of Representative Mary Flowers and Senator Toi Hutchinson and the support of Governor Quinn, today marks a victory for pregnant workers, for families, and for equality.

Learn more about House Bill 8.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination at work, click here.