Associated Industries of Massachusetts has reached agreement with the advocacy group MotherWoman on compromise legislation to extend employment protection to pregnant workers in Massachusetts.
The contours of the agreement were established late last year and affirmed recently when Senator Joan Lovely of Salem and Representative David Rogers of Belmont refiled the compromise bill.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to make reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees — more frequent or longer breaks, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, a modified work schedule, or seating for those whose jobs require extended standing. Businesses would not have to provide those accommodations if doing so would create an undue business hardship, defined as something “requiring significant difficulty or expense.”
AIM opposed early versions of the bill during the 2015-2016 legislative session because of concern among employers that the legislation provided an applicant or employee with unlimited power to reject multiple and reasonable offers of accommodation by an employer. The compromise bill addresses that concern and others
Richard C. Lord, president and CEO of AIM, said “AIM was pleased to work together respectfully on this bill with Senator Lovely, former Representative Ellen Story, and advocates from MotherWoman. It is easy to confuse opposition to a draft of a bill with opposition to the issue itself. AIM is always willing to work with those seeking honest and effective compromise. That is exactly what happened with this legislation.”
Other AIM concerns addressed by the bill:
- Provides clarity regarding definitions and terms related to current employees in need of accommodations related to pregnancy.
- Aligns state and federal laws regarding reasonable accommodation as it relates to the essential functions of the job.
- Provides flexibility rather than a mandating specific types of accommodations for employers and employees.
- Provides a reasonable mechanism for employees and the employer to achieve a reasonable accommodation by engaging in a defined process, eliminating a concern by businesses that an employee could reject multiple reasonable offers of accommodation.
- Adds language allowing the employer to evaluate undue hardship of an accommodation and the ability of employee to perform the essential functions of the job as it relates to an employer’s program, enterprise or business.
- Provides opportunity for an employer to request documentation for certain cases to ensure that accommodations are reasonable for both employees and employers.
- Limits provisions to current employees instead of employees and job applicants.
- Reduces unnecessary burdens and allows for electronic or other means other than a “poster” for notifying employees.
- Allows for certain accommodations to be either paid or unpaid.
MotherWoman said in a statement: “We are excited that we've reached agreement on how to level the playing field for the hard-working women of Massachusetts.
"Through a great collaborative effort among legislative sponsors, Rep. Dave Rogers, Rep. Ellen Story and Sen. Joan Lovely, our dedicated legal advocates at A Better Balance, and the team at AIM — who were so generous with their time and their attention to detail — we have a better proposal, which led to the refiling of this bill. It’s an important support for moms, children and families, and it makes good sense for both employers and employees."
The compromise faces a long process of legislative consideration. Senator Lovely expects the refiled bill will go before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and its new chairs - Representative Paul Brodeur of Melrose and Senator Jason M. Lewis of Winchester - with a hearing scheduled later this year.
AIM and MotherWoman expect to support the measure at that time and hope that the bill will be considered by the full Legislature later in the session and sent to the governor for his approval.