Massachusetts Legislation Strengthens Protections and Benefits for Families, Pregnant Employees
MRW previously commented on the “rampant” pregnancy discrimination plaguing the American workplace, following an in-depth exposé by The New York Times. Despite this painful reality, two recent pieces of Massachusetts legislation strengthen legal protections and benefits for pregnant employees and families.
First, the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which Governor Charlie Baker signed into law on July 27, 2017, officially took effect this past April. The Act bolsters the state’s existing anti-discrimination provisions by explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination due to pregnancy or a related condition, including morning sickness, lactation, or the need to express breast milk. The act also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation for these conditions and to notify employees about these rights. Finally, the PWFA expressly prohibits an employer from discriminating against a pregnant woman solely due to her pregnancy. MRW applauds the Commonwealth’s lawmakers for codifying these crucial legal protections and rights for pregnant employees.
Governor Baker also recently signed a law that passes a long-awaited paid family and medical leave policy. The so-called “Grand Bargain” bill includes a myriad of other labor-related provisions as well.
Beginning in 2021, employees will be entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn or adopted child, or a family member with a serious health condition. Further, an employee’s leave comes with the guarantee that they can return to their previous job, or an “equivalent position” with the same pay, status, and benefits. Massachusetts employees will also be allowed up to 20 weeks of protected paid medical leave to care for personal health conditions and up to 26 weeks to assist a covered service member. Employees on paid leave will earn partial wage replacement based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage. There is a maximum weekly benefit of $850.
The Grand Bargain also includes another significant win for labor: the Massachusetts minimum wage will be raised from $11 to $15 over the next five years, though it also eliminates any ‘time and a half’ pay requirement for Sunday and holiday hourly workers.
The new policy offers key benefits to employees, who will now have a better shot at establishing a healthy balance between family, work, and health. We are delighted at these significant strides towards stronger labor laws in the Commonwealth.