Florence police officer fights for pregnant workers rights
FLORENCE, Ky . (WKRC) - A Florence police officer is leading the charge to ensure pregnant workers are given rights that protect them from discrimination at work.
Lyndi Trischler has experienced discrimination as a pregnant woman. In 2014, she was pregnant with her second child, Luca. During her first pregnancy, the Florence police officer was given a modified assignment. But during her second, she was told that she would have to stay on patrol. To make matters worse, Trischler had learned Luca would only live a short time after his birth because of a disorder. He died two hours after he was born.
"It was the very hardest time of my life, so not having support from my employer was really devastating," Trischler said.
Her co-workers donated sick and vacation time so she could take extra time off work. But she worried Florence's city policy might keep her from having health insurance when she gave birth. Trischler took time off because wearing a heavy gun belt and a bullet-resistant vest became nearly impossible for her to perform her duties in the latter months of her pregnancy.
"I couldn't work another day. It was painful, it was dangerous for me, my co-workers and my baby. It was dangerous for all of us," Trischler said.
Trischler received a lot of support. Women delivered thousands of petitions to Mayor Diane Whalen asking to change the policy to no avail. Eventually, Trischler won an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint with the help of A Better Balance. The organization advocates for better work and family policies.
Now Trischler and another Florence officer are trying to change Kentucky state law. State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, has introduced the Pregnant Workers Rights Act. The legislation would require employers to make accommodations for pregnant women such as modified assignments, light duty and modification of equipment. It also requires employers to provide spaces for employees to express breast milk.
"I guess you could say that these nice policewomen police officers have kind of been the post children for this legislation to go forward," said Kerr. "I see this very much as an encouragement to other women to be able to know that they will be able to go to work and stay at work and give birth to their children in a healthy manner."
Kerr said she hopes the bill will get a hearing in the judiciary committee in the next couple of weeks. She said the Republican caucus is anti-abortion, so she expects members to support it since the legislation would protect the lives of the mother and the child. Trischler said she hopes the bill helps other mothers.
"I hope that any other women don't have to be in this situation and they can have a family and a career and not be penalized for wanting both things."
The city of Florence reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over this issue in 2016. The city settled the suit by agreeing to use policies that included light duty for pregnant employees and employees with disabilities.