AG Healey voices support for legislation to improve workplace protections for women
AG also Testifies in Favor of Bills to Protect Patient Confidentiality and Extend Insurance Coverage to all FDA-Approved Contraceptives
BOSTON – In an appearance today before a joint legislative committee, Attorney General Maura Healey voiced her support for proposed legislation that would help address the gender pay gap and provide protections for pregnant workers and new mothers.
AG Healey also testified at a separate hearing on legislation to help ensure patient confidentiality and protect women’s access to birth control.
Pay Equity/Women in the Workplace
Before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, AG Healey addressed three pieces of legislation that would help expand opportunities for women in the workplace.
- An Act to Establish Pay Equity (filed by Senators Patricia Jehlen and Karen Spilka, and Representatives Jay Livingstone and Ellen Story): Provisions in the bill would guarantee employees the right to discuss their wages and salary. The legislation would also create incentives for employers who try to address unequal pay within their companies, by providing a safe-harbor for those who conduct self-evaluations and demonstrate progress towards addressing wage disparities. The bill would also create a more workable standard for bringing an equal pay claim, and extends the statute of limitations for an equal pay claim to three years, which is consistent with other employment discrimination statutes.
- An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (filed by Senator Joan Lovely and Representative Story): The bill prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition, and it requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing mothers. By passing this bill, Massachusetts would join the many other states and cities that explicitly protect pregnant workers.
- Senate Resolution 1007 (filed by Senator Spilka): This resolve would encourage equitable and diverse gender representation on Massachusetts boards of directors, and urges corporations to include more women on their boards and in positions of leadership.
“By taking these simple steps – increasing pay transparency, cracking down on discrimination, fixing a state law that’s been ineffective for too long, and encouraging companies to diversify their leadership teams – we can make real progress toward equality for women across Massachusetts,” AG Healey testified.
Patient Confidentiality/Contraceptive Access
Before the Joint Committee on Financial Services, AG Healey expressed her strong support for An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare, filed by Senator Spilka and Representative Kate Hogan, which addresses confidentiality for patients receiving sensitive health care services. Under the current system, after a patient receives medical care, the insurance company may send an “explanation of benefits” form (EOB) containing detailed information about the services provided to the primary policy holder in the household or family. The proposed legislation would instead require the insurer to send the EOB form to the patient who actually received the service to help ensure privacy.
“This is a bill of particular importance for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, young people seeking to access reproductive health care services and mental health services, and those receiving treatment for other potentially sensitive conditions,” AG Healey said in her testimony.
AG Healey noted that, in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, there is an increased risk of unwanted disclosure for the millions of young people under age 26 on their parents’ insurance plans, which can dissuade those young people from seeking necessary medical attention.
In her testimony , AG Healey also expressed her support for another bill, An Act relative to women’s health and economic equity, filed by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representatives John Scibak and Tom Sannicandro, which would ensure that Massachusetts health plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptives. Under current law, health plans can still charge co-pays for certain contraceptives.