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New Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Goes Into Effect on April 1, 2018

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The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes into effect on April 1, 2018. The intent of the law is to require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to their pregnant employees for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, upon request. Accommodations include, but are not limited to frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, and modified work schedules. The law requires that the employer engage in a “timely, good faith, and interactive process with the employee to determine effective reasonable accommodations.”

In order to deny a reasonable accommodation request for an employee’s pregnancy or related condition, the employer must demonstrate that the accommodation would cause the employer undue hardship. Undue hardship is determined by considering various factors including the nature and cost of the accommodation, the size and financial resources of the employer, and the impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the employer. Employers are not required to hire additional staff, transfer employees with more seniority, or promote any employee who is not qualified to perform the job unless the employer would do so for other classes of employees that need accommodation. However, an employer may not require an employee to take a leave of absence if another reasonable accommodation is available or require an employee to accept a reasonable accommodation. Employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire an applicant or denying employment opportunities because of a pregnancy-related condition.

Employers are required to conspicuously post notice of the right to be free from discrimination in relation to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions at the employer’s place of business in an area accessible to employees. Notice must be provided to new employees at the commencement of their employment, to existing employees within 120 days after the effective date of the law, and to any employee who notifies the employer of her pregnancy within 10 days of such notification.

Employers who fail to comply with the law may be subjected to remedies available under Chapter 151B, including compensatory and punitive damages, front and back pay, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Employers should review workplace policies and their handbooks to ensure that the company is in compliance with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

About the Author

Jennawe Hughes joined Christopher, Hays, Wojcik & Mavricos in 2017. Her practice includes representation of clients in matters of business litigation as well as trust and estate disputes. Jennawe previously worked at the firm of McCarter & English as a law clerk in their labor and employment division and interned at the Department of Labor in Boston.

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