W.Va. House passes pregnant employee law

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Legislation to help accommodate pregnant women at the workplace was passed overwhelmingly by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday.

The Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act allows employees to request an accessible worksite, assistance with manual labor, bathroom breaks, modified duties and modified work schedules as long as these accommodations do not place an “undue hardship” on the employer.

The legislation would also require employers to provide nursing women time to express breast milk, and it bars employers from turning away a qualified job applicant out of concern they might be asked to provide some accommodations for her pregnancy.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Before passing the bill, the House rejected an amendment proposed by Del. Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, to expand the definition of “person” to include an unborn fetus. Del. Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said the bill defines “person” as an employee and including the fetus in that definition would not make sense.

Bill sponsor Del. Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said the wellbeing of the fetus was already covered in the legislation and additional terminology would create confusion on who could submit a claim based on the welfare of the child.

For instance, a punitive father could make a claim against an employer without the female employee’s knowledge or support.

“The terminology he is attempting to add is already well encompassed within the language of the bill, which talks about pregnancy and childbirth as medical conditions,” Manchin said.

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