Massachusetts’ Parental Leave Law (PLL) is a state labor law lets pregnant employees and their employed partner/spouse receive protected leave for a pregnancy, birth, or adoption. Employees that qualify for PLL are given work protection and continued health coverage during leave. However, PLL does not apply to all employers.
Qualified Private Employers and Employees
A private employer that employs six or more employees is subject to the Parental Leave Law. A private employee must have worked full-time with the same employer for at least 3 continuous months and finished any probationary period(s) that may apply in order to qualify.
Qualified Public Employers and Employees
PLL applies to all state government employers. However, different government employers have different qualifications 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 at least 1 year.
- Employees of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office must have worked for at least 3 months.
- Employees of the Massachusetts Treasurer’s office must have worked for at least 6 months.
- All executive branch employees of the State of Massachusetts qualify for PLL, regardless of how long they have worked there.
What Are the Benefits for Private Employees under the Parental Leave Law?
Under the Parental Leave Law, a private employee has 8 weeks of work-protected leave. As mentioned above, private employees have continued health coverage during their PLL leave. This healthcare coverage must be at least the same level of coverage that they enjoyed prior to taking their parental leave. If the employee had health coverage from work before leave, then the employer must continue coverage.
Employees also have reinstatement when they return. If an employee’s position is terminated due to layoffs while they are on PLL, their employer must offer a comparable position or give the employee first consideration for a new position. An employee may ask for more than 8 weeks of leave. If an employer grants leave extending beyond the 8 weeks, they must put in writing that the employee’s position is not guaranteed after 8 weeks.
What PLL Benefits Do Public Employees Enjoy?
Under PLL, public employees have many of the same protections as private employees. However, the payment of the employee’s salary for that leave and the length of permissible leave vary greatly among different government departments:
- An employee of the City of Boston may have up to 6 weeks of paid leave for a year following the birth/adoption of a child. For the first two weeks they will receive 100% of their salary. 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 will receive up to 20 weeks of unpaid parental leave to use within a year after the birth/adoption of a child. However, only 30 of those days are paid leave.
- An employee of the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office will receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a birth/adoption of a child. They will also receive up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.
- An employee of the State of Massachusetts will receive 10 days of paid leave and eight weeks of unpaid leave.
How Do I Apply for Parental Leave?
Employees must give notice at least 2 weeks before leave begins. Also, employees must give their employer notice 2 weeks before they return. However, in case of emergencies such as a premature birth, the employee may notify the employer as soon as it is possible to do so.
How Do I Know My Rights Are Being Violated?
If you are an 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 because of your request for leave.
- Does not or refuses to post a notice of employees’ parental leave rights in an open and noticeable place.
- Ends insurance coverage for employees taking parental leave, but not for those taking other types of medical leave.
- Refuses to give paid parental leave in cases of adoption, but does give paid leave for a birth.
- Grants extended leave, but fails to put in writing that your work-protection no longer applies after 8 weeks.
Can Homosexual Couples Benefit from PLL?
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. Thus, it is not surprising that the provisions of PLL also apply to married same-sex couples. This includes the length of leave and the protections from employer discrimination.
A gay couple will be able to take paid leave to bond with an adopted child or for a child that they are having with a surrogate mother. A lesbian couple may take time for their pregnancy or adoption, as well as time for caring and bonding with the new child.
Should I Contact an Attorney about Paid Parental Leave in Massachusetts?
Inviting a child into your home, whether through a birth or through adoption, is an incredibly busy and overwhelming time. The last thing that you should need to worry about during this time is your job security. If you have any questions about whether you qualify for Massachusetts’ Parental Leave Law or how you can apply for that leave, contact a Massachusetts lawyer.