The Act expressly prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (the “Act”) amends the Massachusetts statute prohibiting discrimination in employment, G.L. c. 151B, §4, enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). The Act, which goes into effect on April 1, 2018, expressly 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. It also describes employers’ obligations to employees that are pregnant or lactating and the protections these employees are entitled to receive. Generally, employers may not treat employees or job applicants less favorably than other employees based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions and have an obligation to accommodate pregnant workers.
The Act, as further explained by the Guidance issued by MCAD, has the following prohibitions and affirmative requirements:
- Prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions;
- Requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees and applicants who are pregnant (before the Act, employers were required to provide an accommodation only if an employee suffered from a pregnancy-related medical condition that qualified as a “disability” under applicable law);
- Requires employers also to accommodate “any condition related to an employee’s pregnancy,” including lactation and the need to express breast milk;
- Prohibits an employer from imposing a particular accommodation (including a leave of absence) if that accommodation is not necessary or another accommodation can be provided that would allow the employee to perform her job;
- Prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation under the law;
- Prohibits employers from requiring medical documentation about the need for an accommodation if the accommodation requested is for: (i) more frequent restroom, food or water breaks; (ii) seating; (iii) limits on lifting no more than 20 pounds; and (iv) private, nonbathroom space for expressing breast milk; and
- Requires that employers notify employees of their rights under the Act on or before April 1, 2018, at hire and within 10 days of an employee’s notice to the employer of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. The MCAD’s Guidance may be used to fulfill the notice requirement of the Act.