Maternity Leave for Men? MA
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD),
the agency that enforces the state's anti-discrimination laws, recently
announced a new interpretation of the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA),
which requires employers of six or more to offer 8 weeks of unpaid leave to
women after the birth or adoption of a child. Now, the MCAD has stated that if
an employer offers leave to pregnant women which is in excess of that required
under the MMLA, it may be engaging in gender discrimination if it fails to offer
the same leave to employees who have recently become fathers. Put another way,
although the MMLA, by its terms, provides maternity leave to female employees
only, if a company offers time in excess of the required 8 weeks (e.g., weeks 9
through 12) to women but not to men, the result would in most circumstances
constitute sex discrimination in a term or condition of employment in violation
of state law.
MCAD Commissioners Martin Ebel, Sunila George, and
Malcolm Medley, in a letter to
Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, stated that
the new interpretation was triggered by the facts of a case currently before the
MCAD, Bloom v. Metrowest Medical Center.
In that case, the employer offered- to
pregnant women but not to men for whom parenthood was imminent- benefits in
excess of those guaranteed under the MMLA. The agency made a preliminary
determination that such a policy constituted gender discrimination under the
state's anti-discrimination law. The commissioners added that MCAD's Maternity
Leave Guidelines, issued in 2000, expressly state, and have put practitioners on
notice for some time, that such a practice may violate the law.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a prominent voice for employers,
said that it is "currently studying the MCAD announcement and expects to meet
with MCAD officials to clarify the agency's view of the issue."