Pregnant workers bill up for House vote next week

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The Massachusetts House plans next week to take up legislation mandating accommodations for pregnant women on the job, Speaker Robert DeLeo told a crowd in Cambridge on Wednesday.

“Next week I hope to do a bill that some of you may have heard about – the pregnant workers’ rights act,” DeLeo said at the Initiative on the Digital Economy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I brought businesses in to talk about how we can make it work.”

The legislation (H 3659) unanimously endorsed by the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development last week requires employers to provide pregnant workers with “more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks, time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay” and other accommodations as long as they “would not impose undue hardship on the employer.”

The bill, which was originally sponsored by Cambridge Democrat Rep. David Rogers and Salem Democrat Sen. Joan Lovely, was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

DeLeo flagged the bill as a priority at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast in March.

“As the winds of Washington threaten the safety and livelihoods of women, Massachusetts will stand for the opposite,” DeLeo said at the breakfast.

At the labor committee’s hearing on the bill in April, a woman who worked at a Worcester laundry facility told lawmakers that after asking her employer for lighter duty because she was pregnant, she was instead assigned more shifts and tasked with training more new workers than normal.

“She knew I was pregnant, and my supervisor rejected my requests. She said I could accept the work as it was or stop working there. She said that the change I had asked for would have been inconvenient for the scheduling program,” said Alejandra Duarte. “At that point I did not know that my baby’s life was in danger. However, I thought it was unjust I was doing such a heavy amount of work when pregnant and she was not helping me to figure out how to make my job safer.”

After working a series of 10-hour shifts Duarte felt a “horrible pain” and later learned from a doctor that her baby would not survive, she told lawmakers.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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