New Mass. law protects pregnant women and new mothers - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

New Mass. law protects pregnant women and new mothers

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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

A new state law went into effect this week to better protect working pregnant women and new mothers.

The law is designed to ensure that employers are making proper accommodations. 

It is called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  The new law lays out clear guidelines for employers to prevent workplace discrimination.

"We need employers to be mindful of that, respectful of that, and accommodate that," said Atty. James Winston.

Pregnancy and motherhood are life-changing in every possible way and for professionals balancing a career, employers must offer reasonable accommodations.

However, some women - like Linda Duncan - said it doesn't always happen.

"When I was pregnant, I wasn't allowed to go to the doctors," Duncan said.

It was an experience that sticks with her to this day.

"It felt degrading.  I was bullied at work," Duncan explained.

However, just this week, a new Massachusetts law went into effect, tightening up the rules when it comes to pregnancy and post-natal employment regulations.

"Whether that is longer bathroom breaks, unscheduled days off," Winston noted.

While laws regarding pregnancy employment practices have existed for some time, the state is strengthening a number of policies.

"In certain jobs, you might require an employee to lift heavy objects, so under the new law, if it's 20 lbs or more, the employee doesn't even need to have a doctor's note," Winston noted.

One of the major changes comes with requirements for lactation.

"An employer has a duty to not only accommodate a woman's need to express breast milk, but have a place that is private where they can do that," Winston said.

We spoke with Joanne Ollson from Western New England University's human resources department.

"The more we can communicate information through handbooks, and postings, and meetings with employees, the more knowledgeable for them, so they know what their protections are or what benefits they are entitled to," Ollson explained.

Now, the law only applies to workplaces that have six or more employees and companies are required to notify their staff of the change in policy.

For more information on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, CLICK HERE.

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