(For those tuning in late, see my previous post about the bill.)
"From: State House News Service [mailto:news@statehousenews.
COMMITTEE BACKS BILL ADDING HEIGHT, WEIGHT TO ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAW
By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, ….Ten bills related to workers’ rights and benefits, including one that prevents discrimination based on height and weight, moved forward in the Legislature after a legislative committee voted to recommend passage of the proposals .
Lawmakers on the Labor and Workforce Development Committee voted 7-1 in favor of recommending legislation (H 1758) filed by Rep. Byron Rushing that would add height and weight to the list of unlawful discriminatory practices prohibited by employers, labor organizations, employment agencies, landlords or real estate agents. The bill would add height and weight to the protected class descriptions, which include race, color and religious creed.
Rep. Wayne Matewsky (D-Everett) expressed concern about how the legislation would affect people who are no longer able to perform their duties because they had gained weight.
Rep. Keiko Orrall, a Republican from Lakeville, voted against advancing the bill.
Weight discrimination at work is more pervasive than race, gender or sexual orientation discrimination and increasingly considered acceptable, according to advocates who testified before the committee in June.
Dr. Scott Butsch, who works at the digestive health care center at Massachusetts General Hospital, testified in June that he has treated “countless” patients who experience weight discrimination at work. Often, they are unaware they are being discriminated against until after they lose weight and are given promotions or new opportunities at work. "I believe weight discrimination stems from the common belief that obesity is a character flaw," Butsch said during the hearing in June. Weight bias in the United States, he said, has become "socially acceptable."
Another bill that moved forward gives employment leave to victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. The bill, filed by Rep. Thomas Stanley (D-Waltham) and Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), would give workers up to 15 days leave in any 12-month period, with or without pay, if the employee or their family member is a victim of abusive behavior. Companies with 50 or more employees would be subject to the requirement, aimed at giving victims the opportunity to seek court-ordered protection, medical attention, counseling, legal assistance or housing. The bill stipulates the employee is not eligible for leave if they are the perpetrator of the abusive behavior.
The committee voted 7-1 in favor of advancing the bill, with Orrall voting against.
Committee members also voted 7-1 in favor of legislation around parental leave (H 1774/S 865), filed by Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Dorchester) and Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville). Orrall voted no.
The bill (H 1774/S 865) would revise existing laws around maternity leave by removing the limitation that the benefit is only available to female employees. Under the bill, leave would also apply to part-time employees. It limits the probationary period for employees to be eligible to a maximum of six months.
The Labor Committee also voted in favor of legislation relative to defense against abusive waivers (H 1728/S 848), filed by Rep. Kenneth Gordon (D-Bedford) and Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose); and a bill clarifying the meal break law for private enforcement (S 859).
The abusive waivers bill would add a section to state law regulating labor and industries in Massachusetts, which includes enforceable rights and procedures for employment discrimination and sexual harassment. The bill would void contractual provisions waiving any substantive or procedural right to claims of discrimination, retaliation, harassment or violation of public policy.
The meal break bill states employers cannot require an employee to work for more than six consecutive hours without allowing at least 30 minutes for a meal. Currently, the attorney general must investigate violations of the meal break law. The proposed legislation would allow employees to file lawsuits.
The committee voted unanimously in favor of legislation (S 867) filed by Sen. Brian Joyce, that would make it illegal for an employer to deny employment, reemployment, retention or promotion to a U.S. military veteran, including members of the National Guard, on the basis of their military association.
A bill filed by Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) providing incentives for productive workers’ compensation audits was also given a favorable recommendation by the committee, with seven members voting for it.
Current state workers compensation law requires all self-insured employers to be audited annually. There is no requirement that employers with commercial workers compensation insurance conduct audits. The proposed legislation would require all employers to be audited at least biennially, and those employers in the construction industry to be audited annually.
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