Friday, Gov. John Bel Edwards released details on the legislation included in his 2018 regular legislative session agenda to champion women and working mothers in Louisiana.

“The women and working moms of Louisiana are everyday heroes who touch the lives of every community throughout our state,” said Gov. Edwards. “Louisiana simply would not be the special place we call home without them, and I see it as part of my responsibilities as governor to champion policy changes that will help improve the lives of women in our state.” 

Ending Sexual Harassment

Every person, whether they work in state government or private industry, should be able to do their job without fear of being sexually harassed or discriminated against. Gov. Edwards has consistently said that any instances of sexual harassment in the workplace should not be tolerated and that we must ensure victims of sexual harassment are supported and empowered to report their experiences.

“While sexual harassment and discrimination have long been an obstructing force in the workplace, during this reckoning of how we address such an important issue, we must make clear that the state is committed to creating a working environment free from sexual harassment and discrimination for everyone,” said Gov. Edwards.

  • HB 578 by Rep. Robert Johnson (D-Marksville) seeks to lift the veil of secrecy in cases of sexual harassment by prohibiting employers from mandating forced arbitration.
  • SB 369 by Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) ensures the confidentiality of documents or records pertaining to a sexual harassment investigation involving a public employee by exempting such information from the Public Records Law.
  • SB 447 by Sen. Regina Barrow requires each public employee and elected official to receive at least one hour of sexual harassment training annually. New hires must complete the required training within the first 30 days of employment. Newly elected officials must complete the training within the first 90 days of office.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Louisiana has the highest gender wage gap in the country, with the average Louisiana woman making only $0.66 for every $1 a man makes. Meaningful and enforceable equal pay legislation has been a priority for Gov. Edwards since his time in the state legislature and this portion of his legislative agenda is an expression of his commitment to advancing equal pay for women and families throughout Louisiana.

“Every Louisianan ought to be embarrassed by our state’s designation as the highest gender pay gap in the nation and it is far past time that we address it,” said Gov. Edwards. “Regardless of which occupation, industry or education level in which they are employed, the women of Louisiana need to know that the state values their work and their contributions to our economy. By extending the Louisiana Equal Pay Act to state contractors and lifting pay secrecy, we will be one step closer to closing the largest wage gap in the country. It is simply the right thing to do and the legislature knows it.”

  • SB 117 by Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) and HB 251 by Rep. Joe Bouie (D-New Orleans) extend the Louisiana Equal Pay Act to state contractors.
  • SB 149 by Sen. J.P. Morrell and HB 328 by Rep. Patrick Jefferson (D-Homer) eliminate pay secrecy by prohibiting employers from taking actions against employees for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing their wages or another employee’s wages.

Healthy Moms and Healthy Babies

“Consistently, Louisiana has ranked among one of the worst rates of maternal mortality in the nation and that is simply unacceptable to me,” said Gov. Edwards. “I have tasked the Louisiana Department of Health with closely examining the factors contributing to the increased incidences of maternal mortality in our state and developing an extensive report on the policy and practice recommendations we can implement in order to turn the corner on this disturbing trend. We owe it to mothers to make Louisiana a safe and sound place to give birth and build a family.”

Occurrence of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity—or unexpected outcomes of pregnancy and birth that result in significant short- or long-term consequences to a parent’s health is particularly frequent in Louisiana. Black women in particular are up to three times more likely to die in childbirth. Gov. Edwards is committed to reducing maternal deaths and severe maternal morbidity—and racial and ethnic disparities in these outcomes—for healthier mothers, babies, families, and communities across our state. A bill will be filed creating an Advisory Council on Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies to study the increased incidences of maternal mortality in Louisiana.

“As my administration continues to seek new and necessary ways to tackle the impacts of the opioid epidemic in communities around Louisiana, it is especially important to me that we shed light on a part of the problem that often does not get enough attention—neonatal opiate withdrawal syndrome,” said Gov. Edwards. “We must join the latest data with every available resource to give newborns with opiate withdrawal a fighting chance at growing healthy and strong.”

HB 658 by Rep. Walt Leger, III (D-New Orleans) establishes a neonatal opiate withdrawal syndrome pilot program within the Louisiana Department of Health to treat infants with neonatal opiate withdrawal syndrome by providing care options that are safe alternatives to the intensive care unit in existing community or hospital settings for eligible mothers and infants.