Mass. House Backs Accommodations For Pregnant Workers

Pregnant women would be offered more protections in the workplace under a bill that has won unanimous approval in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The legislation would require employers to offer "reasonable accommodations" for pregnant or nursing workers. Such accommodations could include modified work schedules, temporary transfers to less strenuous positions or things as simple as a stool to sit on and more frequent bathroom breaks.

"While most employers are good corporate citizens ... the stories we have heard about certain bad actors in the employment community have spurred us to action," said Rep. David Rogers, a Cambridge Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House.

Labor law experts say the bill is needed because most normal pregnancies do not rise to the definition of a disability under Massachusetts law, so pregnant workers are generally not entitled to the same protections as legally disabled employees.

The bill that passed the House Wednesday now moves to the Senate.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he supports the measure.

"If that bill gets to my desk I would sign it," Baker told reporters.

Backers say that while most business owners in the state act responsibly, there have been stories in Massachusetts of pregnant women being harassed or retaliated against, or forced to do manual labor that could jeopardize their health, or their unborn children.

Supporters say 18 other states provide similar protections for pregnant workers.

Laura Sylvester, an advocacy coordinator for the Hadley-based group MotherWoman, said she was a student and working with the advocacy organization when she and others began coming up with ideas for the legislation.

"We came up with sort of like a wish list of policies that we would like to see passed," she said moments after the House approved the bill. "It's very hard for women to balance motherhood and work."

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey also backs the bill, which she called an important step toward achieving equality in the workplace.

"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.

Associated Press writer Steve LeBlanc contributed to this story.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2017.


More from WBUR

Listen Live