This summer the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“MPWFA”) was signed into law. The MPWFA ensures that pregnant workers or workers with pregnancy-related conditions receive reasonable accommodations and protection from discrimination and retaliation under Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 151B.
The MPWFA will take effect on April 1, 2018. In order to prepare for implementation of the MPWFA’s new requirements, employers should make time to:
- Evaluate and revise their handbooks to incorporate pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions as protected categories;
- Draft a notice (by way of handbook, pamphlet, or other means) to current employees notifying them of their right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy or a pregnancy related condition, as such notice must be provided on or before April 1, 2018;
- Consider whether adjustments need to be made to current policies pertaining to rest and meal breaks, pregnancy-related leaves, and reasonable accommodations and incorporate new policies to comply with MPWFA’s requirement that any employee who notifies the company of a pregnancy or pregnancy related condition must receive notice of their rights under the MPWFA within ten days of having given notice;
- Make certain that nursing employees have access to private non-bathroom spaces which the MPWFA considers to be a reasonable accommodation (and which is already required under federal law);
- Understand when and under what circumstances the company may require corroborative documentation from the employee. For example, the company may not require documentation for the following accommodations: (i) more frequent restroom, food or water breaks; (ii) seating; (iii) limits on lifting over 20 pounds; and (iv) private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.
- Understand what qualifies as a reasonable accommodation under the MPWFA which suggests that accommodations may sometimes include unpaid 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; assistance with manual labor; and modified work schedules. Employers should remember to engage in the interactive process in assessing accommodation requests with pregnant employees or employees with pregnancy-related conditions.