A growing group of organizations is joining Hadley-based MotherWoman in the push to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination by passing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The act would ensure the state's working women reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions.
It's a fact that in Massachusetts today pregnant women are losing their jobs -- with serious consequences for them and their families -- for lack of simple accommodations such as being able to sit down or take extra bathroom breaks. The coalition working to improve this situation includes a broad range of statewide advocacy groups, labor lawyers and physicians.
"With the Supreme Court deciding in favor of Peggy Young, in the recent Young v. UPS case in which Ms. Young was forced onto unpaid leave because of her pregnancy, there has never been a more important time to step forward and act boldly for pregnant workers," says Liz Friedman, MotherWoman program director.
Among those advocating for the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) are: American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists-MA, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association, Massachusetts Women's Bar Association, MotherWoman, NARAL-ProChoice MA, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, and UNITE HERE! Local 26 . By passing the PWFA, Massachusetts would join 13 other states that specifically offer reasonable workplace protections to pregnant women. The bill would grant pregnant workers accommodations including but not limited to:
- more frequent or longer breaks
- acquisition or modification of equipment
- temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
- job restructuring
- light duty
- break time and private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk,
- assistance with manual labor
- modified work schedules
The PWFA is sponsored by Rep. Ellen Story (D-Amherst), Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) and Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge). "It is time Massachusetts protects pregnant workers from being pushed out of their jobs, and make changes to current law to support our families," says Story.
Spokesman for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Dr. James D. Wang expresses the physicians group's endorsement of the proposed legislation this way: "There are protections for pregnant women in place, but discrimination and hardships still exist. MA-ACOG believes that the PWFA will clarify employers' responsibilities, provide a safer, healthier work environment, and strengthen the ability of pregnant women and new mothers to be treated fairly in the workplace." Wang is medical director of Baystate Medical Center's Wesson Women's Clinic.
Support for the PWFA in Massachusetts is growing because of women like Danielle of Westfield. Danielle was forced to leave her assistant manager job at a gas station four months into a pregnancy. With her doctor's support, she requested the opportunity to sit down and be spared heavy duty, such as shoveling sidewalks and hoisting heavy items, but her employer denied that accommodation. "When I was forced to leave my job to ensure my health, I lost my health insurance when I needed it the most. I lost my financial security when it was absolutely critical," she says. "The worst part of this is that it could all easily have been prevented if they had just let me take a break and work at the cash register."
"There's a great need for clarity for pregnant workers, especially hourly workers, and their employers," says MotherWoman's Friedman. "Today in the United States, forty-one percent of women are primary breadwinners in families with children, and women are working later in their pregnancies. Eighty-eight percent of first-time mothers work until their eighth and ninth months of pregnancy. Why? Because they have to-- to provide a roof over their families' heads, food on the table, and health care. Having a job during pregnancy is NOT a choice. Women need to work through their pregnancies and know that they have a job to go back to after they give birth. If they don't, then they can experience a downward spiral into poverty that can be nearly impossible to climb out of."
Says Tricia Wajda, director of public Affairs of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts: "Safe, healthy pregnancies are crucial to the health of women and their families. By affording working pregnant women common-sense accommodations, this bill would provide important support for Massachusetts' families."
For more information, contact:
Linda Matys O'Connell, email@example.com, cell: 610-295-3125
MotherWoman supports and empowers mothers to create personal and social change by building community safety nets, impacting family policy and promoting the leadership and resilience of mothers.
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