Lawmakers Quash Bill To Protect Pregnant Workers: 'You Can Quit'

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
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Eight male legislators in South Dakota block bill to provided simple workplace protections for pregnant women and new moms

In the latest installment of Men Making Awful Decisions About Women’s Bodies, a group of male legislators in South Dakota blocked a bill that would have provided legal protections and workplace accommodations for pregnant women and new moms. Because god forbid a pregnant woman be able to take an extra pee break.

The South Dakota House Committee put the kibosh on HB1120, which would have allowed pregnant women to sit during long shifts, temporary transitions to less strenuous positions, help with physical labor, and a private place for breastfeeding beyond bathrooms. And because 2017 seems to be the year of out-of-touch men making decisions for women’s bodies, one of the men who quashed the bill offered a simple solution for women who aren’t provided these accommodations: just quit.

Yep, that’s right, ladies. Just quit! Because apparently jobs just fall in your lap when you’re pregnant.

“It’s not prison, you can quit,” Rep. Wayne H. Steinhauer said at a hearing for the House Commerce and Energy Committee. “You’ve got a choice every day. You make a choice whether you come to work. And I’m here to tell you, if a person’s not allowing you to breastfeed at work or making appropriate accommodations at work, we can pass this law, but you don’t want to work for that guy. Get the heck out of there.”

Even though Mr. Privileged White Dude thinks it’s raining jobs up in here, “getting the heck out of there” is never that simple. First, the victim of workplace mistreatment shouldn’t be the one to have to look for a new job. Period. End of story.

Second, finding a new job takes time — time away from the current job that is actually paying your bills. See also reason number one above – a woman shouldn’t have to pay for her employer’s bad behavior.

Third, finding a new job while pregnant or with a new baby is downright impossible. See also number one and two above.

It’s against federal law to be fired, harassed or discriminated against for being pregnant, but really that’s just the bare minimum when it comes to workplace protections and accommodations. We’re growing a human being, for heaven’s sake; is a few extra minutes in the bathroom to pull our maternity pants over our ginormous belly too much to ask?

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages pregnant women to discuss possible job hazards with their employer, health and safety office at work (if there is one), and OB-GYN, as soon as possible.

Listen, we’re not asking for catered lunches with pickles, ice cream and unlimited Butterfingers (though that would be nice), we just want pregnant woman to get an extra bathroom break (we really do have to pee all the time), a chair to sit on (do you know how painful vulvar varicose veins are?), and maybe a bottle of water (for some of us, it’s the only thing that keeps us from puking 24/7).

Recognizing that small things really do make a big difference in the health and wellbeing a pregnant employees, 18 states and Washington, D.C. have passed pregnant workers fairness acts, but despite Democrats repeated efforts to introduce a federal version, the law has died a thousand deaths over the years.

Get it together, out-of-touch dudes. In case you hadn’t heard, the future is female and we’re fighting back.

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