Quinn signs maternity bill


Harvey Tillis

Governor Signs Landmark Legislation on Women’s Equality Day to Guarantee Women the Right to be Both Mothers and Employees CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced he has signed a landmark new law that will fight the widespread but often overlooked practice of discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The law provides job protections for pregnant women and requires that reasonable accommodations be made in the workplace so expectant mothers can continue working without fear for their health or the health of their child. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to ensuring full equality for women in Illinois.

By Assistant Metro Edito

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation on Aug. 26 that will protect and guarantee pregnant women’s rights to employment. 

Quinn collaborated on the bill with State Representative Mary Flowers and State Senator Toi Hutchinson to combat inequalities and discrimination against women in the workplace. In an Aug. 26 press release, Quinn said the bill is designed to ensure that women can have a career and also raise a family.

“Women should not have to choose between being a mother and having a job,” Quinn said in the press release. “This new law will provide important protection and accommodations for working mothers-to-be so they can continue to provide for their families without risking their health or the health of their child.”

 The law provides extended maternity leave, break space for breast-feeding mothers, limits on heavy lifting, access to seating and assistance in manual labor.

Michelle Fadeley, president of Illinois National Organization of Women, said the signing strengthens the law.

“Putting these protections in place is a large key to making sure the working women are able to maintain their position,” Fadeley said.

For years, women had to choose between starting a family and continuing their careers, but today women can do both, Flowers said in an Aug. 26 press release.

“No woman should have to choose between losing her baby and losing her job because the employer failed to make reasonable accommodations,” Flowers said in the press release.

Cheryl Pugh, clinical coordinator of Metro Prep Schools, a specialty school for students in need of speech, language or occupational therapies, said she thinks the bill is long overdue. She said women should not have to worry about both job security and giving birth.

“Women have to give birth; that’s what we do,” said Pugh, who is also a mother of two. “But we also have to work. So we shouldn’t have to make a choice. There isn’t necessarily another way to provide for our economic needs and our resources other than the working mother going to work to provide what she needs for herself and her family.” 

Flowers also said many of the women who experience discrimination in the workplace are low-income individuals and single parents who cannot afford to lose their jobs in this economy.

Joseph Bradley, University Park resident and married father of three, said more young women are getting pregnant and being left to raise children on their own, thus causing difficulties with childcare.

Bradley said he became a stay-at-home dad when his children were young because his wife was the breadwinner. He said his wife took the allotted two months of maternity leave time, but that she immediately went back to work to provide for the family.

Hutchinson supported the part of the bill that fights for pregnant women to have limits on heavy lifting, assistance in manual labor and more bathroom breaks. Hutchinson said women should have a right to protect their unborn children.

“The reality is that, for many Illinois families, women are the primary breadwinners,” Hutchinson said in an Aug. 26 press statement. “They should never have to choose between the ability to continue to provide for their families and a healthy pregnancy.”

Pugh said she is happy the bill addresses manual labor limits because pregnancy becomes difficult, especially in the last trimester.  She said women should get a couple  weeks off before their due dates.

“If there’s a lot of manual labor involved, then [it] would definitely need to be a cutoff in terms of women working up until birth,” Pugh said. “It gets so much harder as you’re in the last trimester.  It’s very difficult to lift, to maneuver, to bend and do all types of physical things.”

Most first-time mothers in America continue to work while pregnant during their last month of pregnancy, according to Quinn’s Aug. 26 press release.

Most women are in favor of the bill, but not all agree with all that it proposes. Adrienne Martino, a behavior health therapist, is in favor of extended maternity leave but disagrees with Quinn’s breast-feeding proposal in the work area.

“Reducing the strenuous work for some people who are doing hard labor while they are pregnant [is a great thing], but restricting access to where they feed their child for breast feeding is up to them to choose, and I don’t think there should be specialty spots for that,” Martino said.

However, Brandi Smith, 23, a patient access representative from Oak Forest, Illinois said she likes the idea of having a breast-feeding area at work because women would not have to go outside to their cars to feed their infants.

Another benefit of extended maternity leave relates to the bond that the mother and child form during those early weeks and months.  

Smith said if women get extended time off, they can use that valuable time to bond with their children and not be forced to put them in daycare after three months. 

“The bond between them within the first six months is very important,” Martino said. “Early childhood is very important for the baby to survive on its own.”

Most women in Illinois are relieved that Quinn signed HB 8 because it provides stability to women and their families, Smith said.

“I think the changes he’s making [are] positive for women,” Smith said.  “Giving them a chance to have a pregnancy, be a mom and still keep their job and breast-feed at work in a comfortable zone.”