New State Law Provides Protection For Pregnant Employees, But Raises Questions From Employers

By Will Buss
Belleville News-Democrat.

A new state law aims to keep pregnant women employed and help them find job opportunities.

The Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law went into effect on New Year’s Day to protect female workers who are expecting or experiencing pregnancy-related conditions.

Pregnant women have been a protected class of worker in the Land of Lincoln for some time, but the new law requires all employers, including those with 15 or fewer employees, to make necessary accommodations for these workers.

The new law requires employers to provide rest breaks, water, bathroom and rest breaks and private non-bathroom space for expressing milk and breastfeeding. Pregnant workers also must be provided help with manual labor, job restructuring seating, temporary transfer to less strenuous or less hazardous positions, time off work to recover from childbirth-related conditions or leave necessitated by pregnancy or a related condition.

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed the new law last August, he said the legislation will fight discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace by providing job protections.

“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job,” Quinn said the day he signed the bill. “This new law will provide important protections and accommodations for working mothers-to-be so that they can continue to provide for their family without risking their health or the health of their child. These common-sense accommodations will provide peace of mind, safety and opportunity for moms-to-be and also help strengthen our workforce across the state.”

But one metro-east business owner is concerned how the law will affect his and other smaller businesses in Illinois. Eric Wortham owns and operates a chain of pizzerias in the metro-east and Missouri. He said the new law dictates working conditions that businesses like his may not be able to provide.

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