As a part of the College Democrats of Massachusetts’s #Lobby2Win Strategy, the College Democrats of Massachusetts endorsed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Massachusetts is currently behind 11 states (including Texas and Alaska) with regards to legislation protecting the rights of pregnant workers.
Being born on December 22nd meant that my parents celebrated more than just Christmas that year. As a retail store manager, my mother’s final trimester coincided with the holiday season, which brought 60-hour workweeks. “I remember asking my doctor for a note to reduce my hours to 45 a week, which meant that I’d probably still be working around 50 hours,” my mother, Christine Avery said. Although 22 years ago, unfortunately circumstances like these are still realities for pregnant workers. Massachusetts currently lags behind 11 other states, including Texas, Alaska, and New Jersey, in official legislation for pregnant workers. Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a component of the Civil Rights Act, covers pregnancy-related impairments, but it is not enough to protect pregnant workers. The passage of the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would insure that pregnant workers receive adequate and reasonable accommodations, a necessity for the Commonwealth.
Under the current laws, pregnant workers are able to receive accommodations, but these laws put the burden of proof on the worker when requesting accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not view pregnancy as a disability, but considers pregnancy-related complications as the disability. Under the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, pregnant workers would receive temporary accommodations.
One Massachusetts woman recalled depriving herself of water because her employer would not allow for excessive bathroom breaks. And like many women, this woman’s financial circumstances forced her to choose between the health of herself, as well as the fetus’s, and her livelihood, a decision no person should be required to make.
According to MotherWoman, a non-profit that supports and empowers mothers for personal and social change, “securing a woman’s employment allows her to not only support her family financially, but also saves taxpayer’s money in the form of unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other public benefits.” While some opponents argue that this is harmful for businesses, many believe that this bill promotes employee retention, increases productivity, and saves on insurance and workers’ compensation costs.
With 75% of working women expected to be pregnant at some point in their lives, it is imperative that the specific needs of pregnant workers are met. Pregnancy should never be viewed as a hindrance to employers or an obstacle for workers. The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is an essential part of employment law that cannot go ignored any longer.
If you are interested in helping pass this crucial piece of legislation, contact your State Representative and State Senator and urge them to support the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The author, Jessica Avery, is Co-Chair of the Mount Holyoke College Democrats and a former Mother Woman policy and advocacy intern. You can follow her on Twitter @robequrl.