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Kentucky law protects rights of new and expectant moms

Gov. Matt Bevin has signed into law the Pregnant Workers Act, making Kentucky the 25th state to enact laws to protect the rights and health of pregnant women and new mothers on the job.

It will take effect on June 27 and require employers to make a "reasonable accommodation" for new or expectant mothers. Under the law, those accommodations "may include more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, appropriate seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, modified work schedule."

The law also states that employers must allow time off for prenatal and post-pregnancy medical appointments and must delegate a "private space that is not a bathroom" for pumping breast milk.

The bill, passed in March, also requires employers to talk with pregnant staff members about what the employer can do to help expectant mothers stay healthy and able to work during their pregnancies, and to make any needed accommodations unless they would present a hardship for the business.

Used as an example through the bill-passage process were two female patrol officers health issues who requested a temporary change of assignment during pregnancy. Their city's policy only allowed officers with on-the-job injuries to work in the light duty program, so the women had to go on leave instead.

Proponents of the bill said that although there are federal laws in place to protect pregnant women, they aren't always followed, perhaps out of confusion. The Kentucky bill, however, clearly spells out the responsibilities an employer has to its new and expectant mothers.

This bill is a big step toward protecting the health and rights of new mothers. Down the road, once the bill takes effect, any woman who feels her employer isn't following the law should contact an attorney.

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