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Minnesota Legislature

Bill aims to stop forcing women to 'choose between their careers and their children'

Georgia Fort testifies before the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division Feb. 18 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Rena Moran, left, that would modify pregnancy and parenting leave incumbency requirements. Photo by Andrew VonBank

After a decade of hard work, Georgia Fort landed a news anchor job. But she was fired just 11 months later, when her baby was born before Fort was eligible for leave under the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act.

Under current law, pregnant women aren’t guaranteed any time off after giving birth unless they’ve been in their role for an entire year, Fort told the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division Tuesday.

HF3073, sponsored by Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), would reduce that time to three months, to align with other employee benefits, and provide six weeks of unpaid leave to women giving birth.

“Without this change in law, we create a public health crisis in which women and mothers are forced to return to work immediately after giving birth, or risking losing their jobs,” Moran said.

It was approved and sent to the House Labor Committee, and is expected to return to the division with a fiscal note, said Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), the division chair. There is no Senate companion.

HF3073 heard in House Jobs Division 2/18/20

Six weeks is the minimum amount of time off recommended by doctors, Moran said.

It’s also the youngest that day care providers will accept babies into their care, Fort said.

She discovered that the hard way when she had another child and, again, didn’t qualify for leave. She was permitted to work from home for the first two weeks of her daughter’s life, but had to return on week three. Within five days, she was re-hospitalized for hemorrhaging.

“Why are we making women choose between their careers and their children?” Fort asked. “Giving adequate time off will save lives.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of leave, and does not conflict with the proposed legislation, Moran said.

Other issues brought up by division members include the importance of leave for parents who are adopting, the accessibility of health insurance and prenatal care for pregnant women starting new jobs, and whether pregnancy is considered a pre-existing medical condition by insurance companies.

Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls) commended the bill for the impact it would have on communities of color and indigenous communities – which experience higher rates of maternal mortality – as well as under-employed and low-income women.

Fort urged the division to consider the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which considers the right to have as a family as just that: a human right.

“I have three daughters and, one day, I hope they get to do that one thing they’ve always dreamed of doing, like anchoring the news,” Fort said. “My hope is … that it wouldn’t be taken away from them because they decided to have a family.”

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