The Massachusetts Legislature has passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act which guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers. The legislation makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against, refuse to employ, or terminate an individual due to pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, including lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.
“This is a proud day for Massachusetts and reinforces our dedication to protecting our residents – especially as events in Washington threaten the safety and security of women,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “By bringing diverse stakeholders to the table we drafted a consensus-based bill that can be implemented smoothly and stand the test of time. I want to sincerely thank the advocates who courageously shared their stories; they are heroes who have made Massachusetts a more just and safe place.”
“I am a proud advocate for women’s health and the protections in this legislation build a safer and more inclusive workplace,” said Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose), House Chair of Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “This bill represents the best of the legislative process. Everyone had a seat at the table and collaborated to produce the strongest policy”
“Once again, the Massachusetts Legislature has acted boldly to advance the cause of civil rights, women’s rights and equal opportunity,” said Representative David Rogers (D-Cambridge), House sponsor of the bill. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill I introduced, makes clear that women seeking a reasonable accommodation from their employers for certain conditions or needs related to their pregnancy must be treated fairly. I thank Speaker DeLeo for his strong leadership and the ninety-nine of my House colleagues who co-sponsored this legislation as – together – we send a powerful message about equal opportunity in our Commonwealth.”
Reasonable accommodations may include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent, longer paid or unpaid breaks; procuring or modifying equipment or seating; obtaining temporary transfer, job restructuring, or lighter duty; and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, among others.
The law prohibits employers from taking the following actions against an employee who is pregnant or has a condition related to the employee’s pregnancy:
- Taking adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation;
- Denying an employment opportunity to an employee based on the need of the employer to make a reasonable accommodation;
- Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation if the accommodation is unnecessary to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job;
- Requiring an employee to take a leave of absence if another reasonable accommodation may be provided without undue hardship to the employer;
- Refusing to hire a person who is pregnant because of the pregnancy or because of a condition related to the person’s pregnancy if that person can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation that does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.
The bill directs companies to engage in a collaborative, good faith process with employees and prospective employees to determine effective and reasonable accommodations. In specific instances, employers may require documentation pertaining to the need of accommodation from appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. This does not apply to accommodations for more frequent restroom, food or water breaks, seating, and limits on lifting over 20 pounds.
The bill has an effective date of April 1, 2018. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.