House Passes Bills Continuing Reform Efforts for Delaware Women

DOVER – Continuing a push begun last year to broaden equality and opportunity for women in Delaware, the House passed two bills Tuesday aimed at equal employment and health care privacy.

The measures, House Bills 316 and 317, are part of an ongoing effort to address a host of issues that impact Delaware women every day in their workplaces, doctors’ offices, homes and schools.

Sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, HB 316, dubbed the “Not My Boss’ Business” bill, would reinforce the right to privacy when it comes to health and reproductive care decisions made by employees. This bill would prohibit employers from requiring workers to disclose their personal decisions about family planning.

“We’ve heard the stories over and over – employees feel pressured by their bosses to disclose the deeply personal decisions they have made or intend to make related to raising a family,” said Rep. Heffernan, D-Bellefonte. “We believe that an employee’s plans for his or her family should have no bearing on business decisions made by their employer.”

HB 316 passed the chamber 31-9, with Republicans split on the bill. Some GOP members raised concerns about pregnant employees or employees who might become pregnant, and how that would affect an employer’s ability to hire or fire that person.

HB 317, sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, would prohibit employers from engaging in discrimination based on an individual’s family caregiver obligations. For example, this legislation would protect a worker who is helping to care for an elderly relative or a child with a disability. According to a 2014 report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, 36 percent of parents say they were denied raises, promotions or new jobs based on their caregiving responsibilities.

“So often, the role of primary caregiver for an aging parent or a child with special needs is filled by a daughter or mother who also has a full-time job,” said Rep. Williams, D-Newport. “No one should have to choose between earning a living and making sure that a loved one is cared for properly. Employers should judge people on how well they perform their jobs, not the responsibilities they may have at home.”

HB 317 passed the chamber 35-5, with Republicans comprising the “no” votes.

These two bills were introduced in April with a companion bill that passed the House last month. House Bill 314, sponsored by Rep. Helene Keeley, would make it unlawful for an employer to require an employee to keep his or her wages secret. Currently, 13 states have wage disclosure laws on the books. HB 314 awaits action in the Senate.

The three bills have garnered the support of Lilly Ledbetter, whose struggles with pay equity as a supervisor at an Alabama Goodyear plant ultimately led to Congress passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009. Ms. Ledbetter sent a letter last week to the General Assembly urging members to pass all three measures into law.

“HB 314, 316 and 317 are essential bills that together will promote the economic security of women and their families by protecting women from discrimination in the workplace,” Ms. Ledbetter wrote. “As someone who knows firsthand the devastating long term consequences that employment discrimination has on women’s economic security, I urge you to vote in support of all three of them.”

Additionally, a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations sent a joint letter to the General Assembly last week pushing for the three bills. Among the groups signing the letter are the National Women’s Law Center, Delaware American Association of University Women, ACLU of Delaware and Delaware Commission for Women.

The three bills are in addition to 11 measures rolled out last March. To date, seven of those bills have been signed into law, including legislation mandating equal pay for equal work in state contracting, a resolution that produced a comprehensive report on all untested rape kits in Delaware, and a measure guaranteeing employees the right to take leave based on circumstances of domestic violence or sexual assault.

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FinalLetterofSupportforHB314-316-317.pdf333.29 KB
Ledbetter letter of support.pdf103.55 KB