On April 1, the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect, and with it came several new requirements for employers with workers in the Commonwealth.
Under this act, Massachusetts prohibits employment discrimination based on pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. It also defines the obligations of the employer to employees who are pregnant or lactating and the protections they are entitled to.
The act requires that employers must adhere to the following:
- On request for an accommodation, the employer communicates with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation for the pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.
- Employers must accommodate conditions related to pregnancy, including post-pregnancy conditions, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer.
- Employers cannot require employees to accept an accommodation, or begin disability if another reasonable accommodation is available and would allow them to perform their essential job functions.
- Employers cannot refuse to hire a pregnant job applicant because of the pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition.
- The employer cannot take adverse action against an employee because of a request for an accommodation.
- Employers cannot require medical documentation for an accommodation for 1) more frequent restroom, food or water breaks, 2) seating, 3) limiting lifting to not more than 20 pounds, and 4) private, non-bathroom space for expressing milk. Medical documentation can be requested for other accommodations.
- Employers must provide written notice to employees of the right to be free from discrimination for pregnancy conditions by April 1, 2018.
- Employers must provide a written notice of employees’ rights under the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to 1) new employees at or prior to the start of employment, and 2) an employee who notifies the employer of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, no more than 10 days after such notification.
We’ve already had some questions about the possibility of including the new notice with the COBRA Initial Rights Notice (aka the General Notice of Continuation Coverage or COBRA new hire letter).
Because of the audiences and differences in timing for the two notices, combining them in a single mailing might not be the best solution. (The Massachusetts notification is required to go to 1) new employees and 2) any employee who notifies the employer of a pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, not more than 10 days after notification. The COBRA Initial Rights Notice is for individuals that enroll in a COBRA-eligible plan within 90 calendar days of enrollment.)
You should discuss this with your benefits administrator or legal counsel to determine what makes sense for your specific situation.
Here is some additional information on this regulation.