Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
MASSACHUSETTS SENATE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133

Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

July 20, 2017

Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Establishes essential protections and prohibits discrimination against pregnant individuals

(Boston) – The Massachusetts Legislature today 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.

“No expecting mother should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “This legislation would ensure that women’s medical needs are addressed without imposing undue burden on employers throughout Massachusetts.”

“I believe it is imperative that we provide pregnant workers, 40% of whom are the primary breadwinner of their household, the certainty that they are able to keep their jobs without detriment to the health of their pregnancy,” said Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem). “This piece of legislation would ensure that employers are fair to pregnant workers so that they may continue to work while pregnant and provide the best life possible for themselves and their families.”

“A woman who is pregnant is no less equal and no less valued as a member of the workforce,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “The protections included in this legislation are commonsense and simply prevent mistreatment of pregnant employees.  I’m very pleased to see this bill earn support from workers and employers alike.”

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.

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