The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has gone into effect starting April 1st. This law basically states that employers within the state of Massachusetts will not be able to deny females or recent mothers proper accommodations, even in cases where her pregnancy or condition isn’t considered a disability within current federal and state discrimination laws.
What Is Considered Reasonable Accommodation?
The new law states that employers and employees must engage in a process that is interactive so that a reasonable accommodation can be established. Some of these can include breaks which is longer or paid time off to deal with pregnancy related complications. Employers are also expected to give their female employees sufficient time to recover from giving birth. The equipment or seating they use during the workday should be modified, their duties should be reduced, and they should be given access to a private space which is adequate for breastfeeding. Employers do however have the option to deny accommodation requests if it results in hardship which is undue.
Prohibitions Regarding Discrimination
The law also takes aim at discrimination which is pregnancy related, through the amendment of existing anti-discrimination laws, prohibiting employers from taking negative actions against female employees that request accommodation, insisting that female employees accept accommodations which are unacceptable when it’s not associated with job functions that are essential, and choosing not to hire a woman that is pregnant due to her pregnancy or conditions which are related.
Written Notices Are Now Required
Employers are now required to provide a notice which is written to employees regarding their rights to not be subject to discrimination resulting from pregnancy, including the right to be given accommodation which is reasonable. This notice should be printed in a pamphlet or handbook and given to all employees, especially those who are new, and should also be distributed to someone who notifies their employees of a pregnancy within ten days of the notification being received.
Why The Law Was Enacted
Regulations protecting pregnant women in the workplace are nothing new, and have been enacted at both the state and Federal level. However, the state of Massachusetts has passed this additional law because regulators felt that existing legislation wasn’t strong enough to prohibit the discriminatory practices that are routinely applied toward women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant. A number of studies show that many employers are reluctant to hire women who are or could become pregnant, as it drives up the cost of doing business (as special accommodations must be made for these women), it increases the possibility of liability resulting from accidents, and such women are also perceived to work at reduced performance capacity and due to their absence could place unnecessary strain on other workers. However, this law is designed primarily to reinforce existing rules to ensure that women who are employed can become pregnant without fear of losing their employment.