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Governor Baker signs "Pregnant Workers Fairness Act"

Published:  July 28, 2017

If you’ve been following our blog posts over the past few months, you know that we have been tracking the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” since the bill was introduced in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on May 8, 2017.  Since then, the bill has made its way to Governor Baker’s desk without a single Nay vote in the Massachusetts House or Senate.

Yesterday afternoon, Governor Baker signed the bill into law.  The bill adds new amendments to Massachusetts’ Anti-Discrimination Law (M.G.L. c. 151B), which will create new protections for pregnant employees working in the Commonwealth.  Like the existing provisions of M.G.L. c. 151B, the new amendments address the different employment policies and practices which run afoul of the law.

While the new amendments create greater protections for pregnant workers, they also create new and greater responsibilities on employers.  Prior to these amendments, pregnancy discrimination was considered a facet of sex or gender discrimination, and employers were not required to provide reasonable accommodations unless the employee suffered from a pregnancy-related disability.  Now, healthy pregnancies will be treated in a fashion more akin to disability discrimination.  Employers are now required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with healthy, complication-free pregnancies.

The bill also specifies certain specific accommodations that would presumably be considered reasonable in most circumstances.  These accommodations include private non-bathroom space for expressing breast-milk, longer and/or more frequent breaks, temporary transfer to less strenuous assignments or light duty, modified work schedules or “job restructuring”.  Employers would also be required to engage in an interactive process to determine what other accommodations may be reasonable under the specific circumstances.

Royal, P.C. strongly encourages you to consider implementing new policies and practices before the new amendments go into effect on April 1, 2018.  On September 7, 2017, Royal will provide training on how to comply with these new restrictions.  For more information, please click here:  Royal Roundtable - Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. If you or a member of your organization would be interested in attending the training, please contact Heather Loges to register as soon as possible because seating is limited.

If you have further questions about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.