Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Massachusetts Amends Maternity Leave Law to Provide Greater Protections to Employees

Earlier this month, the former Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, signed into law “An act relative to parental leave,” amending and replacing the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MLA”). 

The original MLA provided eight (8) weeks of protected leave to female employees for the birth or adoption of a child, but, under the new law, protected leave is now extended to male employees as well.  The law applies to employers with six (6) or more employees and eligible employees only need to work for the employer for three (3) months. 

The new MLA may also may cover eligible employees beyond the eight-week leave period. According to the Act, if an employer agrees to provide parental leave for longer than eight weeks, the employer shall not deny the employee his or her rights under this section (including reinstatement), unless the employer clearly informs the employee in writing prior to the commencement of the leave and prior to any subsequent extension of that leave. Specifically, the employer must inform the employee that taking longer than eight weeks of leave will result in the denial of reinstatement or loss of other rights and benefits.

Additional changes to the MLA include:
  • If both parents work for the same employer, they are entitled to eight weeks in the aggregate for the birth or adoption of the same child;
  • While employees still must give at least two weeks’ notice prior to taking leave and returning from leave, the new law contains an exception for employees to provide notice “as soon as practicable” if delay is for reasons beyond the employee’s control;
  • Employers may decide whether the leave is paid or unpaid; and
  • Employees who have a child placed with them pursuant to a court order are also covered.
(Hat tip to Nixon Peabody for the news on this new law).

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