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Pregnancy Discrimination Bill Passes but Two NKY Senators Opposed

A bill that would clarify employers' responsibilities when it comes to making reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees received overwhelming support in the Kentucky Senate last week. 

Senate Bill 18 passed by a vote of 25 to 7. For Northern Kentucky's four state senators, the results were split. Sens. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) and Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) voted in favor while Sens. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) and John Schickel (R-Union) opposed it.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr (R-Lexington) made sure her page, Rosa Parks Elementary fifth-grader Saanvi Bobde, stood at her side on the state Senate floor when she explained Senate Bill 18, a measure addressing pregnancy-related discrimination.

Kerr explained that she introduced SB 18 to help future women of Kentucky – like Saanvi.

“Kentucky ranks 48th in the country for female labor participation,” Kerr said. “To build a stronger economy, we need to make it easier for pregnant women to hold jobs.”

Another provision states SB 18 would apply only to businesses of 15 employees or more.

Calling it a “pro-business piece of legislation,” Kerr cited prior committee testimony by Greater Louisville, Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce. She said the group made SB 18 one of its top legislative priorities for the session.

“Providing clarity on this issue is badly needed in Kentucky,” Kerr said. “As things stand right now, the employer and employees are forced to navigate a complex web of federal law and case law which leads to confusion and frustration. It discourages workforce participation among our women.”

Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) said he supported the bill, in part, because of his strong belief in protecting the unborn.

“If any woman ... is considering an abortion because of the hardship of the workplace, we have to address that – we truly do,” he said.

An amendment to SB 18 changed a list of pregnancy-related accommodations to optional from prescriptive. It also removed a 10-day notice period for employers to alert pregnant employees of their rights.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) voted for SB 18 despite expressing concern the amendment water-downed the legislation.

“However, the bill still does offer protections,” he said of the accommodations the bill would require for pregnant employees. “Some protection is better than what we currently have.”

Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris) said he couldn’t support SB 18 out of concerns the measure might have unintended consequences. He wondered if SB 18 would discourage the hiring of women.

SB 18 had the support of Damon Thayer, the Majority Floor Leader.

“I think it is important to remember there are four members of this body who have experienced something that 33 of us never have and never will,” Thayer said. “For those four ladies and the lives they have given birth to I think this vote today is a testament to them.”

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission with additional notes from RCN staff