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Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Signed Into Law

Establishes essential protections and prohibits discrimination against pregnant individuals

August 1, 2017

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and sent the bill to the desk of Governor Charlie Baker for his signature. This legislation guarantees reasonable accommodations and safety measures for pregnant workers and 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. On July 27, 2017, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was signed into law by the Governor at a bill signing ceremony at the State House.

“No woman should have to choose between keeping her job and maintaining healthy and safe pregnancy,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico, an original co-sponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. “I am proud to support this important piece of legislation, which will undoubtedly make workplaces fairer and safer for all.”

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.

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