The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

A new law will go into effect on April 1, 2018, significantly improving anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation protections for pregnant employees. The “Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” requires employers with six or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, including:

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

The Act requires employers to provide written notice of rights under the Act to current employees on or before April 1, 2018, to new employees upon hire, and to pregnant employees within 10 days of the employee informing her employer of her pregnancy. The written notice may be provided in a handbook, pamphlet, or other means. 

Once an employee notifies her employer of her need for an accommodation for her pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, employers are required to engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of her job. Employers must accommodate the employee unless it would result in an undue hardship to the employer. The factors to determine an undue hardship are:

• The nature and cost of the needed accommodation;
• The overall financial resources of the employer;
• The overall size of the business of the employer with respect to the number of employees and the number, type, and location of its facilities; and 
• The effect on expenses and resources or any other impact of the accommodation on the employer’s program, enterprise, or business. 

While employers may require documentation to support the need for an accommodation, the Act specifically prohibits an employer from requiring documentation for:

•  More frequent restroom, food, or water breaks;
•  Seating;
•  Limits on lifting more than 20 pounds; and
•  Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.

It is crucial that employers are sufficiently informed and trained about the new law. Our experienced employment counsel at Melick & Porter are happy to assist you with compliance and answer any questions or concerns you have about the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.