The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes into effect on April 1, 2018. This new law requires employers with six or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. As the effective date of the Act draws near, employers should take steps to ensure compliance with its requirements.

Notice Requirements

Importantly, the Act has three notice requirements.

First, employers must provide employees with written notice of their rights under the Act via a “handbook, pamphlet or other means.” Notice must be provided to existing employees by April 1.

Second, employers must provide notice to newly-hired employees at the time of hire.

Third, employers must provide notice to any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy. Such notice must be provided within 10 days of such notification.

In light of these notice requirements, employers should evaluate whether existing personnel policies need to be amended to comply with the Act.

Other Employer Obligations

The Act also requires employers to reasonably accommodate all pregnant employees, just as they are required to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. This means that an employer must engage in the interactive process with the employee or prospective employee to try to identify a reasonable accommodation that enables the employee or prospective employee to perform the essential functions of the position. In addition, the Act specifically references an employer’s obligation to accommodate employees with a need to express breast milk for a nursing child.

The Act provides the following examples of accommodations that may be required:

  • More frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks
  • Time off to attend to a pregnancy complication or to recover from childbirth with or without pay
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment
  • 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
  • Modified work schedules

Certain Documentation Prohibited

Although an employer may request documentation to support the need for an accommodation, the Act specifically prohibits an employer from requesting documentation for the following accommodations:

  • More frequent restroom, food, or water breaks
  • Seating
  • Limitation on lifting objects over 20 pounds
  • Private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk

Conclusion

Given the Act's requirements, employers should train human resources personnel and managers regarding those requirements. We recommend employers work with experienced employment counsel to ensure their policies and practices comply with the Act.