The state of Massachusetts has created its own labor laws in an effort to protect workers’ rights within the state. In terms of being considered a part-time employee versus a full-time employee, Massachusetts does not have a set amount of time that you must work in order to be considered as either. Generally, companies will adhere to the standard that 40 hours per week constitutes full-time employment, so that anything less is considered to be part-time.

There are essentially three different minimum wage rates in the state. The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $11 per hour, although for tipped employees, the minimum wage is $3.75 per hour. Additionally, agricultural workers who are family members or are under the age of 17 are to receive a minimum wage of $8 per hour.

Massachusetts adheres to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which requires paying 1 and ½ times regular pay if an employee works over 40 hours per week. Additionally, the state does not limit mandatory overtime. What this means is that an employer can require an employee to work as many hours as they want the employee to work. However, certain jobs are not entitled to overtime, such as professionals, executives, and some seasonal employees.

In terms of healthcare, Massachusetts adheres to The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) as well as maintains its own laws on healthcare. Under the ACA, any employer that has 50 or more full-time employees must offer health insurance. The offered plan must cover at least 60% of typical health costs. Under the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Act, employers must provide their fair share of insurance to employees. However, the exact amount of insurance they must provide depends on the number of full-time employees that are employed by the company.

For insurance purposes, state law considers anyone who works 35 hours or more in a week to be full-time. For companies with 25-50 full-time employees, the company must cover 25% of its employees or pay 33% of the premiums for individual plans. For companies that have more than 50 employees they must cover 75% of their employees, or 25% of its employees and pay 33% of the premiums for individual plans.

What Are The Pregnancy Disability Laws In Massachusetts?

In terms of employment, pregnancy is generally considered to be a temporary disability; as such, disability rights apply. Massachusetts’ Parental Leave Law (PLL) is a state labor law which allows pregnant employees and their employed partner or spouse receive protected leave for a pregnancy, birth, or adoption. Employees that qualify for PLL are given work protection as well as continued health coverage during leave, similar to what is provided under the FMLA. However, PLL does not apply to all employers nor all employees.

A private employer of six or more employees is subject to the Parental Leave Law. In order to qualify, an employee must have worked full-time with the same employer for at least 3 continuous months, and must have finished any probationary period(s) that may apply to their position.

PLL applies to all state government employers; however, different government employers have different qualifications in order for an employee to receive PLL. Currently, there are different sets of qualifications for four different government entities:

  • Employees of the City of Boston must have worked for the city for a minimum of one year;
  • Employees of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office must have worked for a minimum of three months;
  • Employees of the Massachusetts Treasurer’s office must have worked for a minimum of six months; and
  • All executive branch employees of the State of Massachusetts qualify, regardless of how long they have worked there.

What Benefits Are Offered To Private And Public Employees Under The Massachusetts Parental Leave Law?

A private employee should receive up to 8 weeks of work-protected leave. To reiterate, private employees are entitled to continued health coverage during their PLL leave. This coverage must be at least the same level of coverage that they enjoyed prior to taking their parental leave. What this means is that if the employee received health coverage from work prior to taking leave, their employer must continue coverage.

Additionally, private employees have reinstatement privileges when they return. Meaning, if an employee’s position is terminated due to layoffs while they are away on PLL, their employer must offer a comparable position or give the employee first consideration for a new position. Also, a private employee may ask for more than 8 weeks of leave; however, if an employer grants leave extending beyond the 8 weeks, they must put in writing that the employee’s position is not guaranteed after those 8 weeks.

Under Massachusetts PLL, public employees are entitled to many of the same protections as private employees. However, the payment of the employee’s salary for that period of leave, as well as the length of permissible leave, vary greatly among different government departments.

An example of this would be how:

  • An employee of the City of Boston may receive up to 6 weeks of paid leave for one year, following the birth or adoption of a child. For the first two weeks they will receive 100% of their salary, while for the third and fourth week they will receive 75% of their salary. For the fifth and sixth week they will receive 50% of their salary;
  • An employee of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office can receive up to 20 weeks of unpaid parental leave, to use within a year after the birth or adoption of a child. However, only 30 of those days are paid leave;
  • An employee of the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office can receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a birth or adoption of a child, as well as up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave; and/or
  • An employee of the State of Massachusetts will receive 10 days of paid leave, as well as eight weeks of unpaid leave.

What Else Should I Know About Massachusetts Paid Parental Leave?

In order to apply for parental leave, employees must give notice at least 2 weeks before their leave begins. Additionally, employees must give their employer notice 2 weeks before they return. However, in emergencies such as a premature birth, the employee may notify their employer as soon as it is possible to do so.

If you are a Massachusetts employee who qualifies for parental leave under the Parental Leave Law, your rights have been violated if your employer does any of the following:

  • Threatens or discriminates against you solely due to your request for leave;
  • Does not or refuses to post a notice of employees’ parental leave rights in an open and noticeable location;
  • Terminates insurance coverage for employees who are taking parental leave, but not for those who are taking other types of medical leave;
  • Refuses to provide paid parental leave in cases of adoption, but does give paid leave for birth; and/or
  • Grants your request for extended leave, but fails to put in writing that your work-protection no longer applies after 8 weeks.

Because Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage, it follows that the provisions of PLL also apply to married same-sex couples. This includes the length of leave as well as protections from employer discrimination. An LGBTQIA+ couple can take paid leave in order to bond with their child, whether adopted or otherwise.

Do I Need An Attorney For Pregnancy Disability Leave In Massachusetts?

If you experience issues obtaining your rights under PLL in Massachusetts, you should consult with an experienced and local Massachusetts employment lawyer as soon as possible.

An attorney can help you understand the state’s specific laws regarding the matter, as well as what your legal rights and legal options are under those laws. Additionally, your attorney will also be able to represent you in court as needed.