Joining a growing list of other states that have legislation in place for new and expectant moms in the workplace, Massachusetts is expected to pass a bill protecting pregnant and nursing mothers on the job as well. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — which passed unanimously in the House on May 10 — would require employers in the state to provide nursing workers with a private, non-bathroom area to pump breast milk. It would also allow pregnant women to request special accommodations at work, such as more frequent breaks and less strenuous or physically demanding tasks.
Under the new legislation, it would be illegal for an employer to take “adverse action” against a pregnant or nursing worker who requests “reasonable accommodation,” such as a lighter workload, additional time off to recover from childbirth, the ability to sit down, or a private space to pump — so long as the requests don’t cause a business “significant difficulty or expense,” according to the bill. It also mandates that a working mother’s job status, seniority, and accumulated benefits would not be affected should they utilize these protections.
The bill is on its way to the state Senate, where it is “widely expected to be approved,” according to The Boston Globe. Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has also reportedly expressed support for these legal protections. Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey also backed the bill in May when it was passed in the House, which she called at the time an “important step toward achieving equality in the workplace,” according to the Associated Press.
"We know that 75 percent of women will be pregnant at some point in their working lives and too often they are forced out of their jobs — or forced to take absences from work — at a time when they need the income and job stability the most," Healey said in a statement, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Back in 2010, nursing mothers were given workplace protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which required employers with more than 50 workers to provide reasonable break times and locations to pump breast milk. But, as Engineering News-Record reported, 19 states have since passed laws to accommodate both pregnant and nursing workers that "exceed federal rules." And 13 of those states passed this type of legislation in just the past four years.
Now that almost half of the nation has passed laws like the one in motion in Massachusetts, it's important that working mothers are aware of these protections and feel free to utilize them when they need to.