“Pregnant Worker Fairness Act” Becomes Law in Massachusetts

It was another big week for Massachusetts workers. On Thursday, July 27, 2017, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act (PWFA). While its provisions will not formally go into effect until April 1, 2018, giving the administration time to write appropriate regulations, the signing of the new law signals a victory for Baystate employees confronting difficult decisions which often accompany pregnancy and work.

In a nutshell, the PWFA–or “S.2093” as it is known by policy wonks–expands the definition of disabilities to cover women whose pregnancies might otherwise be deemed to be “healthy.” Perhaps most importantly, the law protects women from adverse employment decisions–hiring, termination, promotion, etc.–based on pregnancy.

To be sure, employers still can attempt to justify pregnancy-based employment decisions with arguments of “undue hardship.” But the onus of making that proof now shifts to the company. The law also requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant employees and bars employers from forcing workers to take paid or unpaid leave because of pregnancy. To those ends, the PWFA intersects with other state and federal laws such as the Family & Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Chapter 151B of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Attorney Nathan Olin at Olin Lippiello LLP has long fought for the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. If you believe you are confronting discrimination or unfair treatment based on pregnancy status, give him a call or email him. He’d be happy to talk about the PWFA and the other Massachusetts and federal laws that might apply to your particular situation.