MA Labor Law Update- Parental Leave

Massachusetts is among the growing list of states updating their labor laws to include some form of maternity leave for workers.  On January 7, MA Governor Deval Patrick signed into law an amendment of the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law that will extend eight weeks of unpaid leave to both male and female employees to care for a newborn or newly placed/newly adopted children.  Previously the law only applied to female employees.  Efforts by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination convinced lawmakers that the law should apply to male employees as well.

Provisions of this MA Labor Law

The updated law includes benefits for employees who meet the following criteria:

  • Female AND Male Employees;
  • Employed by an employer that has at least six employees;
  • Must be past their initial probationary period OR worked for at least three months- whichever is shorter

Under this MA Labor Law, these employees are entitled to up to eight weeks of unpaid leave for:

  • Giving birth;
  • Caring for a newly placed child under the age of 18 or under the age of 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled;
  • An intended or actual adoption.

Under the amended law, an employee who goes on leave for the above reasons is generally entitled to be restored to his or her previous or similar position with the same status, pay, and seniority as when the leave period began. The law also states that these protections apply only to leaves of up to eight weeks.  Employers who offer leaves for longer than eight weeks and does not guarantee that the employees will be able to return to their positions as the law would otherwise require must notify its employees of that policy in writing.

In addition, the law states that if two employees of the same employer are parents to the same child, the couple is only entitled to one aggregate period of eight weeks leave between them.  The law does not require that these employees be reinstated to their position if other employees with similar positions and experience have been laid off from the company due to economic or other operating conditions.  In these situations, the employee on leave must be afforded the same consideration or preferential treatment as they would have had before they went on leave.

The amendment goes into effect on April 7, 2015.  Employers are encouraged to update their employee leave policies in the meantime.

2024 State and Federal Combo Labor Law Posters are available for all 50 states HERE.

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