The Massachusetts Pregnant Worker Fairness Act takes effect on April 1.  The new law expressly prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, and breastfeeding.  Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and employers must provide employees with written notice of their rights under the new law.

1.  Pregnancy-Based Discrimination Prohibited

Employers may not discriminate against employees due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions, including breastfeeding.  Unlawful discrimination in this context includes refusing to hire someone because she is pregnant, taking an adverse action against an employee due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, or denying an employee an employment opportunity due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition.

2.  Reasonable Accommodations

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and breastfeeding employees.  These accommodations may include:

  • More frequent or longer breaks
  • Time off
  • Modification of equipment or seating
  • Temporary transfer to another position
  • Job restructuring
  • Light duty
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Modified work schedules
  • Private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk

This list is not exhaustive, and employers should work directly with any affected employees to identify accommodations suited for their employees’ specific needs.

3.  Notice Requirements

The act requires employers to provide employees with written notice of their rights no later than April 1, 2018.  This notice can be provided in the employee handbook or in a separate written notice.  Employers are also required to provide this notice to new employees before they start and within ten days to any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy.

TO DO: 

  • Update your employee handbook, written policies, and employment postings to reflect the new law.
  • Educate managers on providing reasonable accommodations to pregnant and breastfeeding employees.

As always, please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the new law or need assistance updating your written policies.