BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) joined his Senate colleagues in unanimously voting 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.
“Women should not have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and continuing their careers” said Senator Eldridge. “This bill will protect the health of pregnant employees, and represents another important step towards greater gender equity in the workplace.”
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.