October 12, 2018

Pregnant at Work?

Being pregnant while at work isn’t always easy, and it’s best to know your rights under the law. If you are pregnant, or are planning on becoming pregnant soon, here is some information to make yourself aware of your civil rights and how you can best exercise them in the workplace:

The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect in early 2018.

Under the Act, the employer has an obligation to communicate with the employee to determine reasonable accommodations for the pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions, such as lactation. A reasonable accommodation is a modification that allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job while pregnant without undue hardship or significant expense to the employer. Some of these accommodations may include:

  • more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks
  • time off to attend to a pregnancy complication or recover from childbirth
  • acquisition or modification of equipment or seating
  • private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk
  • assistance with manual labor

Employers must also provide this information in a written notice to employees of their rights to be free from discrimination due to pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy.Additionally, an employer may request medical documentation for some accommodations, but may not for:

  • more frequent restroom, food, or water breaks
  • seating
  • limits on lifting no more than 20 pounds
  • private, non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk

This Act also expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and any pregnancy-related conditions while applying for a job. Employers cannot refuse to hire a pregnant job applicant because of the pregnancy or related conditions, if an applicant is capable of performing the essential functions of the position with a reasonable accommodation. An employer also cannot take adverse action or retaliate against an employee for exercising her rights under the Act.

If you believe you may have been discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, you may file a formal complaint with the MCAD and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We suggest you contact someone right away, as there may be strict time limits in which you can bring a case against your employer. If you need to speak with an experienced lawyer, please call our intake staff at 617- 742- 0625 or connect with an area attorney online.