The Senate unanimously voted to pass an Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill, sponsored by Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem) ensures that pregnant workers are protected from discrimination in the workplace. In addition to protecting the health of pregnant employees, the bill also promotes economic security for workers and their families.
“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.”
“A woman who is pregnant is no less equal and no less valued as a member of the workforce,” said Senator Jason Lewis, 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.”
“A woman’s healthy pregnancy should not be incompatible with her ability to earn a paycheck, maintain economic security and retain insurance benefits all of which are of vital importance as a family is about to grow,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “The bill we adopted today contains reasonable policies to protect pregnant workers without unduly burdening employers and their competitiveness.”
“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 Lovely. “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.”
Under this legislation, employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee or prospective employee due to pregnancy or a condition related to the pregnancy, such as lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.
Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers who are pregnant. At the request of a pregnant employee, employers must undergo a good faith and interactive process to determine an effective reasonable accommodation. Provisions include low cost modifications such as providing employees with a stool to sit on, allowing for more frequent bathroom breaks, allowing the worker to carry a bottle of water, or providing a private non-bathroom space for lactation. Employers are not required to provide accommodations that would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.
In addition, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire a pregnant job candidate solely because the candidate requires a reasonable accommodation. Employers are not permitted to force pregnant employees to accept an accommodation that they do not want or to take leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided.
The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act makes the Commonwealth a leader in addressing pregnancy discrimination and positions the state at the front of a national movement.
“When we started this journey two years ago, MotherWoman and her allies knew that too many pregnant women were struggling without accommodations commonly given to other workers. Massachusetts legislators, on both sides of the aisle, heard us. So did the business community,” said Linda O’Connell, Executive Director of MotherWoman, an advocate for the bill. “We are proud to live in a state that can solve real problems for real people.”
The bill will now be reconciled with the House version of the bill, which was passed last month, before being sent to the Governor for his signature.