The Law @ Work

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is Coming to Massachusetts on April 1, 2018

by Amelia J. Holstrom

On July 27, 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into law.  In addition to adding pregnancy and conditions related to pregnancy (including lactation), as protected classes under the state’s anti-discrimination law, the statute also states that employers:

  • Must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy or condition related to pregnancy, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship to the business;
  • Cannot take any adverse action against or refuse to hire someone because she needs, requests, or uses a reasonable accommodation;
  • Cannot require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided without undue hardship on the business;
  • Cannot require an employee to accept an accommodation that the employee chooses not to accept, if the accommodation is not necessary to perform the essential functions of the job;
  • Cannot refuse to hire someone because of a pregnancy or condition related to pregnancy if the person is capable of performing the essential functions of the job with or without an accommodation;
  • Must provide written notice to employees, meeting certain criteria, before April 1, 2018 and in some circumstances thereafter.

The statute describes an employer’s obligations with regard to the interactive process and also indicates that reasonable accommodations may include, among other things:

  • More frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks;
  • Time off due to a pregnancy complication or 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 work;
  • A private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk;
  • Assistance with manual labor; and
  • A modified work schedule.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) released Guidance on the new law last week.  Employees who believe they have been discriminated against based on their pregnancy and/or a pregnancy-related condition may file a Charge of Discrimination with the MCAD.

The law goes into effect on April 1, 2018.  If you need any assistance understanding your obligations under the law or preparing the required written notice to employees, please contact any of the attorneys at Skoler Abbott.

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