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The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill that’s designed to make employers more accommodating to pregnant women and new moms.

Senate Bill 18 would require companies with 15 or more employees to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees who are limited because of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical issue, such as breastfeeding.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, told committee members that the bill is of “utmost importance to Kentucky” for the straightforward handling of this issue, which “has always been difficult and complex” for employers and employees.

In the past, she also has said the bill would help to protect women and babies from health problems, such as preterm birth, miscarriages and anxiety, that could result from a business not being accommodating.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington

The bill calls for the employer and employee to work together “in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine effective reasonable accommodations.”

Examples of reasonable accommodations that an employer may put in place include more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, appropriate seating and temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, according to the bill.

Other examples of steps that might be taken include job restructuring, light duty, a modified work schedule and a private space (that is not a bathroom) to express milk.

The bill, supported by Greater Louisville Inc., would make it unlawful for employers covered by the legislation to fail to make reasonable accommodations unless they can show that it “would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s program, enterprise or business.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, was the only person to express strong opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s committee meeting. She explained she would be voting no because she thinks the bill could backfire on some women.

“I have the fear that one of the unintended consequences of this legislation is that women of child-bearing age could actually be discriminated against in hiring practices,” she said. “… If you have two people who are equally qualified and one is of child-bearing age, the other applicant could be selected behind closed doors for that position, and that’s not something that any type of legislation could address.”

But Rep. Patti Minter, a Warren County Democrat, said the bill is “pro-family, pro-woman legislation that’s past due.”