Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) & Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA)

As an Employer, What Are My Duties Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA)?

Under federal law, eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave with continued medical benefits and restoration of their original position upon return. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to companies with at least 50 employees, and an employee is eligible under FMLA when they:

  • Have worked for the same employer for the previous 12 months.
  • Have worked at least 1250 hours in the previous 12 months.
  • Are employed by a “covered” employer, which is:
    • All federal, state, and local governments and agencies
    • Private employers with 50 or more employees for 20 weeks in the calendar year and engaged in interstate commerce.

For companies with fewer than 50 employees down to 6 employees, the requirements of the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA Chapter 149: Section 105D) are applicable. MMLA requires that pregnant women be allowed up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave and be restored to her previous or a similar position upon her return to employment following leave. That position must have the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority as the position the employee held prior to the leave. If an employee’s job was changed temporarily because of her pregnancy prior to leave (e.g., her hours were reduced or her duties were changed as an accommodation) she should be restored to the same or similar position held prior to such temporary change. In August of 2010 in a 4-to-3 ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the 1972 law guarantees full-time employees eight weeks off to give birth or to adopt a child, after which they are entitled to return to the same job or a comparable one. Beyond that, however, the law does not protect them. The Court said that if an employer promised more than 8 weeks, MCAD’s guidelines were invalid in suggesting that the law provided protection and employees would be left to contractual remedies despite their lesser protections.