Policy Statement and Reasons

For the purposes of this policy, employees include Massachusetts faculty and staff employees unless otherwise indicated in the sections below.  All provisions of this policy apply, except that for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, this policy does not create any benefits not expressly provided by that collective bargaining agreement and if there are inconsistencies between this policy and the collective bargaining agreement, the terms of the collective bargaining agreement will govern. 

The College, in compliance with the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, is committed to providing a work environment where applicants and employees are free from discrimination based on pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. The right to be free from such discrimination includes:

  • The right to reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy (including but not limited to lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child) provided the employee can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation, and
  • The requested accommodation does not impose an undue hardship to the College

Human Resources is responsible for managing requests for reasonable accommodations for faculty and staff employees. Contact the Leave of Absence Administrator, Human Resources regarding pregnancy-related requests for accommodation. 

Policy Guidelines


All faculty and staff employees and applicants for employment.

Employment-Related Prohibitions

The College prohibits treating applicants and employees less favorably than other applicants and employees based on their pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Specific prohibitions include, but are not limited to:  

  • Denying reasonable accommodations for employees’ pregnancy or any condition related to employees’ pregnancy provided the requested accommodations would not impose an undue hardship to the College
  • Refusing to hire job applicants because of their pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition where applicants can perform the essential functions of the positions for which they are applying with (or without) reasonable accommodations that would not impose an undue hardship to the College
  • Denying employees employment-related opportunities or otherwise taking adverse action against employees because of their pregnancies or any pregnancy-related conditions, including without limitation, any denial or action based on:
    • The need of the College to make reasonable accommodation to the known conditions related to employees’ pregnancies;
    • Employees’ request for such accommodations; or
    • Employees’ use of reasonable accommodations.
  • Requiring pregnant employees to accept accommodations that employees choose not to accept if the accommodations are unnecessary to enable the employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs
  • Requiring pregnant employees to take leaves of absence if another reasonable accommodation may be provided for the known conditions related to employees’ pregnancies without undue hardship to the College

Reasonable Accommodations

Upon request, the College provides reasonable accommodations to employees due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. Reasonable accommodations are changes in the workplace or the way job duties are customarily executed that enable employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs.

While not an all-inclusive list of reasonable accommodations, the following are examples of workplace accommodations the College may make as long as they do not cause undue hardship to the College: 

  • Use of private, non-bathroom space to express breast milk
  • More frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks
  • Time off to attend to a pregnancy complication or recover from childbirth
  • Acquisition or modification of equipment or seating
  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
  • Job restructuring
  • Light duty
  • Assistance with manual labor
  • Modified work schedule

Applicants or employees seeking accommodations must request accommodations. All requests should be directed to the Leave of Absence Administrator, Human Resources. Once the Leave Administrator has received requests for accommodations, they will engage in an interactive dialogue with employees to determine if the requested accommodations are feasible. During that dialogue, the College may request documentation from employees’ health care providers (see Healthcare Provider Documentation below).

Undue Hardship Exclusions

At times applicants or employees may ask for accommodations that pose an “undue hardship” (i.e., requires significant difficulty or expense) to the College. In cases where requested accommodations pose an undue hardship, the College will work with the employees to identify alternative workplace accommodations that may be effective.

Healthcare Provider Documentation

Employees requesting reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions may be required to provide written documentation from appropriate health care or rehabilitation professionals (non-family members) to support their requests. The documentation must include:

  • A clear statement of the pregnancy-related condition and expected duration of the individual’s limitation as it affects the ability of the individual to perform the essential functions of his/her job
  • A description of the functional work impact or limitations due to the condition
  • An explanation of the recommended accommodations, its relevance to the condition and expected duration of the recommended accommodations
  • Other information as requested

The College may also require documentation when an employee seeks an extension of the accommodation beyond the originally agreed to accommodation.

However, the College will not request or require documentation for the following accommodations:

  • More frequent restroom breaks
  • More food or water breaks
  • Providing seating and being permitted to sit as needed
  • Limits on lifting no more than 20 pounds
  • Use of private, non-bathroom space to express breast milk

Pregnancy-Related Disabilities

Employees experiencing pregnancy-related disabilities, defined as physical and/or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such impairment may be referred to Emerson’s Reasonable Accommodations (Disabilities/Serious Medical Conditions) policy.

Other Information

Related Policies

Key Offices to Contact 

Please contact the Leave of Absence Administrator (Human Resources) for further information regarding this policy and its implementation.  

Links to Procedures or Forms

Contact the Leave of Absence Administrator (Human Resources) for assistance.


Reasonable Accommodations:  Definition is included within the text above.

Undue Hardship:  Definition is included within the text above.

Significant Difficulty and Expense: In determining whether an action would result in an undue burden (significant difficulty and expense), several factors are considered including, the nature of the work, the type of accommodation and associated cost, financial resources and staffing of the department and/or College, the impact such accommodation would have on expenses, resources, operations and safety requirements.


The contents of this policy are informational only and are not conditions of employment.  This policy does not create any contractual obligations or alter the at-will employment of the College’s at-will employees. Emerson College reserves the right to modify, revoke, suspend, terminate, or change any and all policies and procedures at any time, with or without notice, as consistent with state and federal law.


Policy Effective Date:  May 2019