The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was introduced in the Senate and the House on May 11, 2017. The act would make discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions illegal for employers. The House bill currently has 106 cosponsors and was referred to a handful of committees while the Senate bill has two cosponsors and was referred to one committee on the day of introduction with no further action.
It may be unlikely that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act becomes law anytime soon. However, several states have proceeded to pass their own pregnancy fairness legislation and join several other states and cities with similar laws.
The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on July 27, 2017, and takes effect April 1, 2018. The new law amends Massachusetts’ antidiscrimination law, which applies to employers with six or more employees, to include pregnancy and related conditions.
Among other rules, the new law states that pregnancy cannot be used as a factor in hiring decisions. Employers must grant reasonable accommodation for pregnant and postpartum employees, including providing the opportunity and nonbathroom space for lactation. Time off following childbirth must be allowed, though pay for that time is not required.
The law also requires employers to publish notice of an employee’s right to pregnancy nondiscrimination via an employee handbook or other means.
Nevada employers with 15 plus employees must comply with that state’s Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, which goes into effect October 1, 2017. Similar to the Massachusetts law, Nevada’s law protects pregnant women from discrimination and requires reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
In a related law which took effect July 1 of this year, the Nursing Mother’s Accommodation Act, private employers with 50 or more employees and all public employers must provide a clean, private, nonbathroom space for nursing mothers to express milk.
Effective October 1, 2017, An Act Concerning Pregnant Women in the Workplace prohibits Connecticut employers from discrimination based on pregnancy and childbirth and requires reasonable accommodations be made.
Employers must provide a written notice of their rights under the new law within 120 days of the law’s effective date. The written notice must also be made available to newly hired employees and newly pregnant employees starting October 1. A poster displayed in a conspicuous place that is accessible to employees and presented in English and Spanish may fulfill this requirement.
In May, Vermont Governor Phil Scott approved the very short act relating to accommodations for pregnant employees. The new law applies to all employers, requiring them “to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy-related condition.” That law goes into effect January 1, 2018.
It’s a good idea to plan a handbook review to make updates related to these new regulations as well as update workplace posters. Schedule time on your calendar now to complete audits of your current handbook and policies and make the necessary updates.