Is North Dakota the type of place where people from around the country want to relocate to and raise a family? Let’s be honest, it is cold in North Dakota. We have also gained fame for having some of the most expensive housing in the nation. Some people will never get over the former, and I expect time and building to take care of the latter. However, it is also important we take a good hard look at what messages we send to people who are looking to move to the state. One negative message we can improve in North Dakota is how friendly this state is to workers, and according to a recent national study by the National Partnership for Women & Families, “Expecting Better,” North Dakota gets an “F” for supporting working moms and dads during pregnancy and after birth
In short, North Dakota employment law does not expand any protection to families other than the protections afforded by Federal law, such as the Family Medical Leave Act, and sadly most protections afforded under federal law are extremely limited.
I have long considered the process of protecting employment rights for women who are expecting and who recently gave birth to be a cornerstone of the real fight against abortion. As I have said before, an expectant mother should not have to choose between a career and her baby because the laws allow and encourage discrimination. According to a recent study, the most common reason women have abortions is general financial concerns which include the fear of losing employment because of the pregnancy.
During the last legislative session, North Dakota passed a bunch of anti-abortion laws that have had little or no effect on reducing abortions. Making North Dakota a more friendly state for expecting parents would actually begin to attack the root cause of abortion.
North Dakota can do better. We can start by adding pregnancy and childbirth to the list of protected categories covered by North Dakota Human Rights laws. We can also mandate smaller employers offer coverage similar to the FMLA so parents who take time off for pregnancy related conditions and childbirth can be guaranteed the right to return to work, and finally, we can provide paid leave for state employees for maternity, paternity, or adoption.
These three things will send a message that North Dakota is a family friendly state, even for families who work, and that North Dakota employers and laws will support you when you choose life.