Massachusetts considers new pregnancy leave law

A new law currently under consideration in Massachusetts is designed to extend protections against pregnancy discrimination.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are attempting to pass a law designed to better ensure that pregnant workers are not unnecessarily forced out of their jobs, according to a recent piece by the Huffington Post. This law is written to offer additional protection to women in the workforce. According to the piece, of the pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts, 50 percent are active in the labor force, working to earn a living to help support their families.

Unfortunately, not every woman in this position has supportive employers. One out of every five discrimination charges filed by women in the United States is connected to charges of pregnancy discrimination. In an effort to reduce these occurrences, lawmakers proposed the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). MA PWFA was proposed in January of 2015 and is currently under review.

Current law

As of April 7, 2015, Massachusetts state law provides that employers with six or more employees are required to provide eight weeks of leave per child for giving birth or adoption. This time off is with or without pay "at the discretion of the employer." State law also notes that the use of parental leave shall not impact the employee’s right to receive vacation, sick leave, bonuses, advancement opportunity and other benefits.

Upon completion of leave, the employee should be restored to the same or similar position with the same status, pay and length of service credit or seniority as applicable, as of the date of the leave.

Proposed law

The bill currently under consideration would expand these protections. It was proposed by Representative Ellen Story of Amherst and Senator Joan B. Lovely among others. The proposal requires employers to "provide employees with reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions for employees or prospective employees." The law would also make it illegal to take adverse action against employees who request accommodations for these conditions.

The proposal defines "reasonable accommodations" to include longer breaks, time off to recover after childbirth, modification of equipment or seating, light duty, private bathroom space for the expression of breast milk and modified work schedules.

The bill was recently referred to the committee on House Ways and Means for further review.

Importance of legal counsel

This proposal provides an example of the evolving nature of employment law in Massachusetts. It is also important to note that in addition to state laws, federal laws are also available that protects families from these types of discrimination. If you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination, contact an experienced discrimination attorney. Remedies are available that can include monetary awards as well as a return to previous employment.
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