A Closer Look at the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

On July 27 of this year, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The bill, which will become effective on April 1, 2018, requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees. The legislation also bans the termination or discrimination of women based on pregnancy.

Existing law in Massachusetts does not cover women with healthy pregnancies. The new law will apply disability standards to pregnancy by mandating that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” upon request of the employee, unless doing so would create undue hardship for the employer. In such a case, the employer must apply to the state for a waiver and prove that providing the accommodations would create a hardship for the business.

Reasonable accommodations include more frequent breaks to eat, drink or use the bathroom, modification of equipment, transfer to a less strenuous role, a private space for nursing, or a modified work schedule.

At the time of the signing, House Speaker Robert Deleo stated, “As events in Washington threaten the safety and security of women, we stand for the opposite here in Massachusetts.

More than half of all pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts work to help support their families. Among those attending the bill signing ceremony was Alejandra Duarte, who testified during a hearing on the bill that she lost her baby at 19 weeks after working grueling 10-hour shifts at a Worcester Laundry.

Employers must notify all new hires and existing employees of the right to be free from discrimination based on pregnancy on or before January 1, 2018.