Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass 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.

“This legislation makes certain that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workforce,” said Representative Benson. “I was proud to vote for this bill to protect pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts.”

Reasonable accommodations may include time off to recover from childbirth; more frequent breaks; 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; and
  • 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 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.

The bill was signed into law by the Governor on July 27, and has an effective date of April 1, 2018.