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Utah Legislature: Bill to help working moms nurse is rejected

SALT LAKE CITY — A blatant slap in the face of Utah's working mothers.

That's what Rep. Christine Johnson called the vote that downed her proposal to require employers to accommodate nursing in the workplace.

"This says a lot about the hypocrisy of this Legislature," she said after the Friday night meeting. "We say we support families and women. The least we can do is support the desire of women to do the best for their families."

The Salt Lake Democrat, an expectant mother herself, said lawmakers should be "embarrassed."

Despite supportive testimony from Intermountain Health Care, the University of Utah and Employers Council of Utah, the predominately male House committee expressed concern that HB252 created a mandate on private businesses.

"It's not appropriate for the state to command us in all things," said Rep. Mike Morley, R-Spanish Fork. He said the bill was simply "dictating common sense."

Employers Council of Utah President Monica Whalen said a majority of businesses in her organization supported the measure and considered the requirement reasonable.

She pointed out that last year the Legislature passed a law that requires businesses to allow loaded weapons in vehicles on their property or provide storage for loaded guns, a mandate that caused businesses much more expense and difficulty.

"I have an aversion to mandates, but this is simply a matter of common decency," Whalen said.

Johnson's bill would have provided a civil penalty to businesses that did not comply with an employee's request for a private, clean place to nurse.

The bill would have applied to businesses with 50 or more employees.

Johnson said her proposal did not tell employers what to do, but rather what they should do, and that the negative vote highlighted pro-business bias in the Legislature.

"This body consistently shows favoritism toward businesses and gross inconsideration for anyone other than the majority," she said.