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Senator Supports Better Conditions for Pregnancy, Nursing, But Not Paid Leave

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Thomas van Ardenne via Creative Commons

Republican Utah Senator Todd Weiler is sponsoring legislation that would improve working conditions for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. But he says Utah will probably not lead out on the issue of paid parental leave.

Weiler’s bill would require public and private employers to provide accommodations for women who are pregnant or nursing. That could mean extra bathroom breaks or privacy. Weiler says he also supports Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis’ bill to outlaw discrimination against women who are breastfeeding in public.  He does not, however support Democratic State Representative Angela Romero’s bill to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave for some state employees.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad idea,” Weiler says. “It’s an unfunded mandate on the employers and I doubt that the body is going to support that.”

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that offer employees paid parental leave. Utah follows federal guidelines, which give employees a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave.

The newly formed Utah Women’s Coalition is working with lawmakers this year on a series of bills aimed at expectant and nursing mothers. Coalition Coordinator Stephanie Pitcher says there is a strong economic argument for paid maternity leave because of the high turnover costs associated with mothers and sometimes fathers leaving the workforce. 

“This would allow the state to retain those employees,” Pitcher says. “It would also allow the state to be a more competitive employer because presumably we would be attracting and retaining more qualified and competent employees.”

In 2014, the National Partnership for Women and Families gave Utah a failing grade for its parental leave policies.  The 2016 legislative sessions begins Monday. 

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