Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act Applies to Men

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) recently announced that the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA), M.G.L. c. 149, s. 105D, must be viewed as gender neutral. Originally, the MMLA provided female employees with eight weeks of leave relating to the birth or adoption of a child. Recognizing the disparate treatment that the MMLA created, the MCAD Guidelines warned that “an employer who provides leave to female employees only, and not to male employees, may violate the federal prohibitions against sex discrimination even though the employer has acted in compliance with the MMLA” (See Answer 11).

MCAD Commissioner, Martin Ebel, defended the change as not only necessary to ensure equal treatment between male and female employees, but also to guarantee equality between same-sex couples:

If two women are married and adopt a child, then they are both entitled to leave under the [MMLA], and yet if two men are married and adopt a child, they would be entitled to no leave under a strict reading of the statute. That result was troubling to us, and we didn’t think it was in keeping with our mandate by statute, which is to eliminate, eradicate and prevent discrimination in Massachusetts.

The MCAD’s long-awaited stance on the MMLA is a welcome change. Restricting the MMLA to female employees reflects the archaic perception that a woman’s career should take a backseat after giving birth. Granting equal maternity leave benefits to both men and women finally brings the statute into the 21st century.

For more information about the change to the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act, please visit the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article entitled, Men now eligible for maternity benefits