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Lawmakers Debate Pregnancy Discrimination Bill

DENVER (CBS4)- State lawmakers are debating a bill some say helps mothers during pregnancy and after their child's birth. Others believe the additional legislation isn't necessary.

The proposal includes the allowance of more bathroom breaks, a chair to rest and even a temporary job change if the activities are too strenuous.

"I'm very lucky to have her, she's such a blessing in my life and my family's life," said mother of three Christina Ayalle.

Ayalle was stocking shelves at a freight company when she learned she was pregnant with her third child.

"The doctors were telling me I can't be bending, you're having too many complications, it's not safe for the baby," said Ayalle.

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Christina Ayalle and her daughter (credit: CBS)

But when she approached her employer with a note from her doctor, the revised working conditions were met with resistance, "They didn't really seem to care and I would get upset because it stressed me out and I knew I wasn't supposed to be doing it but I thought if I didn't do it, I'm going to lose my job."

Her story isn't unusual.

"Recent data shows that complaints around pregnancy and pregnancy accommodations have risen and are up 44 percent," said Rep. Faith Winter, a Democrat representing Westminster.

Winter has introduced a bill that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women.

"More bathroom breaks, access to food and water, if it's a long shift- a place to sit down," said Winter.

Not everyone supports the bill.

Shopping & Style Maternity Wear, One Woman
(File photo. Credit: Thinkstock.com)

"Some employers would like some clarity on this issue," said Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry spokeswoman Loren Furman.

Furman said while her organization supports most provisions in the bill, what they don't support is making it part of the anti-discrimination statute.

"The statute was expanded in 2013 with very excessive remedies and punitive damages, compensatory damages," said Furman.

Ayalle ended up quitting her job but said she shouldn't have to chose between a pregnancy and a paycheck, "It's not right."

Under the bill, employers can require a doctor's note. There are also protections for new mothers who are still recovering when they return to work.

The business community would like to see fines instead of lawsuits under the anti-discrimination act. The bill does have bipartisan support.

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