On the day before he left office, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed an act relating to parental leave (the “Act”) into law. The Act significantly amends the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”), which provides eight weeks of job-protected leave to female employees following the birth or adoption of a child. Most notably, the Act will extend that same right to male employees. It will take effect April 7, 2015.
A covered employer is any for-profit entity with six or more employees. It also includes any employer of domestic workers, the state and all political subdivisions, regardless of the number of employees. (The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides new parents with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, it only applies to employers with at least 50 employees.)
Covered employees are those who have: (i) completed their employers’ initial probationary period (not to exceed three months) or, if there is no probationary period, (ii) been employed by the same employer for at least three consecutive months as full-time employees.
Covered employees will be entitled to eight weeks of parental leave for the purposes of giving birth or the placement or adoption of a child under age 18 (or under age 23 if the child is mentally or physically disabled). If two covered employee-parents work for the same employer, they are entitled to eight weeks of parental leave in the aggregate. Following leave, covered employees must be restored to their previous or similar position, with the same pay, status, length of service and seniority as of the date of their leave.
Employers have discretion to determine whether leave will be with or without pay. In addition, employees must give at least two weeks’ notice of their anticipated date of departure and their intention to return to work unless, for reasons beyond the employees’ control, they are unable to do so. In such case, employees must provide notice as soon as practicable.
Employers must post, at each worksite and in a conspicuous place, a notice describing the Act, employees’ rights thereunder and the employer’s policies relating to the Act. We anticipate the state will release a model notice prior to April 7.
With Massachusetts’ enactment of parental leave and paid sick leave (see our Article, “Massachusetts Voters Approve Paid Sick Leave Law”), employers should take the time to review and revise their leave policies.
If you have any questions regarding Massachusetts’ parental leave law, please contact your Kutak Rock LLP attorney or a member of our Employee Benefits Practice Group.