#WinforWomen: Oklahoma State Reps are Leading the Way for Women’s Reproductive and Economic Justice
Oklahoma legislators have kicked off the 2017 state legislative session by standing up for women and families. In a big #WinforWomen yesterday, two bills were introduced in the state House of Representatives—the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act, introduced by Rep. Emily Virgin, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, introduced by Rep. Scott Inman—to combat unfair and discriminatory workplace practices that threaten the ability of Oklahoma’s women to prevent pregnancy or plan, have, and raise healthy families without sacrificing their economic stability.
A woman’s personal, private decisions about having children must not affect her job security
The Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act (HB 1539) specifically prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against an employee for their reproductive health decisions, like having an abortion, using birth control, or using in vitro fertilization to start a family. Employees across the country have been punished, threatened, or fired for these decisions. The bill introduced today would make it absolutely clear that this kind of discrimination is prohibited by Oklahoma law.
Reproductive health is directly tied to economic security. Decisions about whether, when and how to have children are already some of the biggest economic decisions many women will make in their lifetimes. If a woman is fired or otherwise punished for her reproductive health decisions, her long-term economic stability—and that of her family’s—can be severely threatened.
Women in Oklahoma need the Reproductive Health Nondiscrimination Act so that they can make decisions about whether, when, and how to have children without fear of repercussions in the workplace—a woman’s job and economic stability should never be threatened for making these decisions.
No woman should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and keeping her job
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (HB 1635) protects a woman’s ability to have and raise healthy a healthy family and protects her economic security by requiring employers to make the same sorts of accommodations for medical needs arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers make for disabilities. If enacted, it will help ensure that pregnant women can continue to do their jobs and support their families.
Despite laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, many employers continue to push pregnant women off the job when they need temporary workplace accommodations, such as sitting on a stool during a long shift or avoiding heavy lifting. Often these employers will make similar accommodations for other workers experiencing a temporary disability.
Pregnant workers who are denied workplace accommodations for which they have a medical need may be at risk for a host of complications. A pregnant worker who is unable to get a needed accommodation may be forced to choose between the health of her pregnancy or losing her job. Job loss during pregnancy at the exact moment financial needs are increasing can propel families into poverty. And being forced to take leave during pregnancy is rarely a viable solution, as leave time will no longer be available when a woman needs it most—to recover from childbirth and bond with a new baby.
Women in Oklahoma should never have to choose between having a healthy pregnancy and keeping their jobs. Women in Oklahoma need the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act so that they can have and raise healthy families, without having to worry about losing their jobs.
We salute Reps Virgin and Inman for recognizing the links between reproductive health and economic security. By ensuring that bosses cannot penalize individuals for deciding whether or when to start a family or their decision to keep working when they do, these bills will go a long way to preventing discrimination. Combatting this discrimination will support women in the workforce and harness the full potential and talent of Oklahoma’s workforce—because when women are able to enter and remain in the workforce, we are all better off.