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MA Pregnancy Accommodation Bill Gains Momentum

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a public hearing on the proposed law called the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act which, if passed into law, will provide new workplace accommodations for expecting and new mothers.

The bill provides pregnant women reasonable accommodations including “more frequent or unpaid breaks, time off 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, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, or modified work schedules” as long as the accommodation “would not impose undue hardship on the employer.”  You can view the House bill here: H.1038; and the Senate bill here: S.1023.

Last year a similar bill was opposed by business groups  However, this year the Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced last month that it reached an agreement with an advocacy group (MotherWoman) and that bills filed by Sen. Joan Lovely and Rep. David Rogers represent their consensus legislation.

As reported in the AIM Blog, the following concerns were reconciled between AIM and MotherWoman in the current version of the draft bill:

  • Provides clarity regarding definitions and terms related to current employees in need of accommodations related to pregnancy.
  • Aligns state and federal laws regarding reasonable accommodation as it relates to the essential functions of the job.
  • Provides flexibility rather than mandating specific types of accommodations for employers and employees.
  • Provides a reasonable mechanism for employees and the employer to achieve a reasonable accommodation by engaging in a defined process, eliminating a concern by businesses that an employee could reject multiple reasonable offers of accommodation.
  • Adds language allowing the employer to evaluate undue hardship of an accommodation and the ability of the employee to perform the essential functions of the job as it relates to an employer’s program, enterprise or business.
  • Provides the opportunity for an employer to request documentation for certain cases to ensure that accommodations are reasonable for both employees and employers.
  • Limits provisions to current employees instead of employees and job applicants.
  • Reduces unnecessary burdens and allows for electronic or other means other than a “poster” for notifying employees.
  • Allows for certain accommodations to be either paid or unpaid.”

At this point, there appears to be substantial support for the bill in both the House and the Senate, it has the backing of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and recently Governor Charlie Baker announced that he expects he would sign the bill.

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