Legislation proposing to add breastfeeding mothers to Utah’s antidiscrimination law was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation Friday afternoon.
HB 105 – Antidiscrimmination Modifications, which is sponsored by Representative Justin Miller (Democrat – Salt Lake City), advanced on a 6-2 vote. Representatives Curt Oda (Republican – Clearfield) and LaVar Christensen (Republican – Draper) cast the dissenting votes. The bill now heads to the full House for debate.
Miller believes the law is too ambiguous on the matter of breastfeeding and needs to be changed. “I believe it is the intent of this good state to not allow an employer to fire a woman employee because she breastfeeds. I’m hoping that that is the direction the state believes that they’re going in. Allowing ambiguity to remain in the law will take the legislators will out of the picture. This is not something I’m willing to do.”
Under the bill, new mothers could not be fired from their place of employment due to breastfeeding. An earlier version of the bill made breastfeeding mothers a protected class, though the bill was later substituted to state that breastfeeding was a pregnancy-related condition.
According to Marina Lowe, legislative and policy counsel for the ACLU of Utah, the Beehive State would not be the first place to address the matter of breast-feeding in places of employment. Lowe told the committee that 25 other states have enacted statutes relating to breastfeeding in the workplace.
“I think by putting something in statute it has the benefit of saving both employers and employees money and time to be embroiled in uneccassary litigation,” said Lowe.
Christensen doesn’t believe the proposed change is necessary. “I’m concerned in that looking at all of the states it just seems to cry out that, as well-intentioned as it is, it seems to be the wrong place in the law. It seems to be an uneccassary placement there. It seems like it could be done another way if it’s truly needed.”
Michelle McOmber, CEO of the Utah Medical Association, spoke in favor of the legislation. “This bill will allow women to continue to be in the workplace while being able to take care of their young babies through breastfeeding without discrimination.”
Representative Oda likes the concept of the bill, but believes there needs to be more discussion on the issue. “I’m not quite there yet. I feel like there’s still some areas that need some clarity. I would have liked the opportunity to discuss this with the insurance industry to see what might happen there. I like the concept of where you’re trying to take this, just from the standpoint of helping, but I don’t know if this is quite the right way to go.”