Massachusetts employers only have a few more days left to prepare for the new Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Starting April 1, 2018, employers with six or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and nursing employees. The Act also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, such as lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child.
Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, employers must grant an employee a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy or condition related to pregnancy, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. A reasonable accommodation may include:
- 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; or
- a modified work schedule.
An employee or prospective employee and the employer must engage in an interactive process to help determine an effective, reasonable accommodation that allows the employee or prospective employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Employers can request documentation about the need for accommodation from a healthcare professional that explains what accommodation the employee needs. However, employers cannot request documentation to provide the following:
- more frequent restroom, food, or water breaks;
- limits on lifting more than 20 pounds; and
- private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.
Employers also cannot deny an employment opportunity to, or take an adverse action against, an employee because the employee requested a reasonable accommodation. Employers cannot make an employee accept an accommodation that is unnecessary to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job, or require an employee to take a leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided without undue hardship. Lastly, the Act prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a pregnant person because of the pregnancy or related condition, if she is capable of performing the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation and that reasonable accommodation would not impose an undue hardship.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), which will enforce the new law, has issued the Guidance on Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Covered employers are encouraged to review this guidance to better understand their new obligations. Under the Act, employers are required to provide a written notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy or a condition related to the employee’s pregnancy to all employees. The MCAD Guidance on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act can be used to fulfill this notice requirement.
The MCAD is expected to release an updated Fair Employment in Massachusetts posting that will include “pregnancy or a condition related to said pregnancy, including, but not limited to, lactation, or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child” in the list of protected categories. CPC will continue to monitor the new legislation, and provide new updates. Make sure to visit us soon!