Governor Cooper Extends Workplace Protections to Pregnant State Employees

The state of North Carolina has extended workplace protections and modifications to pregnant state employees.

Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order last week allows pregnant state employees of any North Carolina agency, department, board or commission under the purview of the Governor’s Office to notify their supervisors of needed workplace adjustments. Adjustments will be granted unless they would entail “significant burdens or cost.” The order also directs cabinet agencies to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation against pregnant state employees and encourages them to promote the policy among contractors and subcontractors.

Since the new policy was put in place through an executive order, the NC General Assembly did not weigh in.

The new policy fills a gap. The U.S. Department of Labor lists North Carolina as one of just four states that provided no state-level protection against pregnancy discrimination. Workplace protections for pregnant women improve babies’ health and safety, including lower risk of preterm birth and low birthweight, and improve mothers’ health and safety. Pregnancy protections have also been found to have benefits for businesses, such as increasing productivity and retention, and reducing turnover costs, absenteeism and health care costs.  

Family Forward NC, an initiative of the NC Early Childhood Foundation, works with employers to learn how they approach family-friendly workplace policies, help them understand the importance of these policies to children, families and business outcomes, and encourage more employers to adopt family-friendly policies like pregnancy accommodations. The Guide outlines the research that shows that family-friendly policies improve outcomes for children, families, and employers alike.

NCECF is also part of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative and Zero to Three-funded Think Babies NC coalition, which, among other policies, has set a goal to clarify and establish reasonable accommodations and additional protections for pregnant state employees.