For Immediate Release Contact: Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772
July 21, 2017 Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
Legislature Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Establishes essential protections and prohibits discrimination against pregnant individuals
(BOSTON) –Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature recently 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, 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.”
“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 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”
“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.”
“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.”
“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:
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.