House backs accommodations for pregnant workers

BOSTON (AP/WHDH) — Pregnant women would be offered more protections in the workplace under a bill that has won unanimous approval in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The legislation would require employers to offer “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant or nursing workers. Such accommodations could include modified work schedules, temporary transfers to less strenuous positions or things as simple as a stool to sit on and more frequent bathroom breaks.

The bill that passed the House Wednesday now moves to the Senate.

Backers say that while the majority of employers in the state act responsibly, there have been stories in Massachusetts of pregnant women harassed or retaliated against, or forced to do manual labor that could jeopardize their health, or their unborn children.

7’s Sharman Sacchetti spoke with Alejandra Duarte, whose story played a key role in passing the bill. Duarte said while she was working at a laundromat, she was required to train workers and push laundry in carts weighing hundreds of pounds. She said she asked her boss for a lighter workload while she was pregnant but instead, she was given an extra day of work. At 19 weeks, she lost her baby.

“It can’t change what happened to me. It can’t change the pain,” said Duarte. “I can’t change the fact that when my friends and co-workers have babies, and I see them all around, I want one for myself. But that will never change.”

Linda Matys O’Connell, the Executive Director of MotherWoman, told 7News about the gap in the law and how the current bill would address those issues.

Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) told Sacchetti he was “shocked” when he learned the conditions that some women, like Duarte, endure while they are pregnant. He said he believes this bill is doing a “good thing” for Massachusetts.

Supporters say 18 other states provide similar protections for pregnant workers.

Gov. Charlie Baker expressed support in the bill but said he will read the bill’s full details when it reaches his desk.

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