SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Three female democrats in New Mexico’s House of Representatives want to protect pregnant working women from discrimination.
House Bill 179, introduced Friday on the House floor, is called the ‘Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act.’ It’s sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces.
Pregnant women are already protected federally if they work for or apply to work for a business of more than 50 employees, according to Rep. Armstrong.
Rep. Armstrong and her co-sponsors want to pass a similar bill to protect the rights of women who work for — or apply to work for — a New Mexico business of more than four workers.
The bill would make it illegal to discriminate, such as refusing to hire a pregnant woman, firing or demoting a pregnant employee or not reasonably accommodating a mom-to-be. For example, by allowing more breaks or requiring less physical strain.
“A woman and her family should not be at punished or at risk for losing her job just because she’s pregnant or chooses to have a family and have a child,” Rep. Armstrong said.
The bill says a business could require a doctor’s note to explain the need for an accommodation. And under the law, if it passes, a woman could sue for triple the damages if the employer violates the act.
The bill says a business could, however, make its case as to why it can’t accommodate, but doesn’t explain what happens at that point.
Rep. Armstrong says it’s important to pas this bill in New Mexico, where small businesses are abundant.
It’s not the first time a bill like this has been introduced in the legislative session. Rep. Chasey introduced a similar bill during the 2015 legislative session, however, it died in committee.