The Massachusetts Senate has unanimously voted to pass “An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” (“MPWFA”) in an effort to make sure that pregnant and nursing employees receive the same protections under Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 151B as do other protected classes of employees. The bill, which had previously unanimously passed in the House, contains a minor amendment from its House counterpart and will therefore have to be reconciled in the House before being sent to Governor Baker to be signed into law. Once signed, the Act will take effect on April 1, 2018. The Act as passed by the Senate can be found in full in the PDF linked at the Commonwealth’s website.

The MPWFA, as currently composed, would make “pregnancy or a condition related to said pregnancy including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child” a protected category under Section 4 of Chapter 151B, which previously only protected employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, ancestry, or veteran status. Accordingly, the MPFWA makes it illegal for an employee to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, and also makes it illegal for an employer to deny a reasonable accommodation (such as allowing more frequent meal breaks, bathroom breaks, limits on heavy lifting, private nursing spaces, etc.) for a pregnant or nursing employee.

Moreover, the Act makes it unlawful for employers to:

  • Take adverse actions against such employees who make requests for accommodations;
  • Deny an employment opportunity if the denial is based on the employer’s need to make an accommodation;
  • Require an employee to accept an accommodation that the employee chooses not to accept;
  • Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation may be provided; and
  • Refuse to hire a person who is pregnant because of the pregnancy or conditions related thereto (provided that person can perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodation).

Once the Act is signed into law, employers will be required provide written notice of the MPWFA to employees by April 1, 2018.

Proskauer will continue to provide updates to notify Massachusetts employers when the bill has been signed into law, and any subsequent guidance or regulations pertaining to the MPWFA thereafter.

Special thanks to Tom Fiascone, a Summer Associate in the Boston office, for his assistance in preparing this post.

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Photo of Scott Faust Scott Faust

Scott A. Faust is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department, co-head of the Strategic Corporate Planning Group and a member of the Labor-Management Relations Group. He focuses his practice on all aspects of labor and employment law, and regularly handles…

Scott A. Faust is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department, co-head of the Strategic Corporate Planning Group and a member of the Labor-Management Relations Group. He focuses his practice on all aspects of labor and employment law, and regularly handles collective bargaining negotiations, arbitration, mediation, counseling and litigation of labor and employment disputes on behalf of his clients.

Labor-Management Relations

Scott represents employers in collective bargaining negotiations, grievance arbitrations, union organizing campaigns, work stoppages, labor injunction proceedings and proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board. He also has extensive experience advising distressed companies and their creditors, as well as buyers and sellers involved in M&A transactions in labor-intensive industries. Scott has negotiated numerous collective bargaining agreements with the United Steelworkers in more than a dozen U.S. states as well as in Canada. He also has negotiated agreements with the United Auto Workers, Canadian Auto Workers, SEIU, Teamsters, Machinists, Operating Engineers, Carpenters, Painters, United Plant Guard Workers, Electrical Workers, Sheet Metal Workers, Chemical Workers, Food and Commercial Workers, Massachusetts Nurses Association and Typographers unions.

Employment Litigation and Counseling

Scott represents employers in labor and employment disputes in state and federal courts and administrative agencies, as well as in mediation and arbitration. Cases he has handled include matters involving wrongful discharge, ERISA, employment discrimination, related employment torts, enforcement of and challenges to non-competition agreements, and administrative proceedings before state and federal agencies. He has litigated cases in state and federal courts in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Utah, Colorado and North Carolina, including appeals to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First and Tenth Circuits.  He also provides day-to-day counseling on general employment matters, including equal employment opportunity and discrimination issues, development of employment policies, workplace restructuring, and employment law compliance.

Thought Leadership

Scott has published articles and given recent presentations on such subjects as Labor and Employee Benefits Issues in Corporate TransactionsIssues and Opportunities in Labor Intensive M&A TransactionsTrends in Private Sector Collective BargainingElectronic Workplace Monitoring and SurveillanceDuty to Provide Information in BargainingNLRA Compliance Issues, and Strikes in the Health Care Industry. Scott has been ranked in Chambers USA as a leader in labor and employment law.