Massachusetts Passes Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Author: Marta Moakley, XpertHR Legal Editor

August 2, 2017

Next spring, Massachusetts employers will have additional compliance requirements under the state Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which prohibits employers from denying pregnant employees reasonable accommodations for pregnancy- and childbirth-related conditions, absent due hardship.

Governor Charlie Baker signed the bipartisan bill, thanking "the Legislature for their collaboration with advocates from both the women's health and business communities."

The Act prohibits an employer from:

  • Taking adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation, including by failing to reinstate the employee to her original or an equivalent position when the need for the reasonable accommodation ceases;
  • Denying an employment opportunity based on a pregnancy-related condition;
  • Requiring an employee to accept an accommodation that she chooses not to accept, if the accommodation is unnecessary;
  • Requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided; or
  • Refusing to hire a person who is pregnant based on her potential need for an accommodation.

Reasonable accommodations may include:

  • More frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks;
  • Time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay;
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or seating;
  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position;
  • Job restructuring;
  • Light duty;
  • Break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk;
  • Assistance with manual labor; or
  • Modified work schedules.

While many larger employers already have a policy for lactation accommodation in place because of the Fair Labor Standards Act's requirements, states like Massachusetts have enhanced federal protections for employees and increased employer coverage. Next on that list is Nevada, where employers should also prepare for forthcoming compliance requirements under a similar law taking effect this fall.