The Massachusetts employment bar is abuzz with word that a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) Commissioner has publically stated that the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) will apply to new parents of either sex. This means that new fathers would be entitled to eight weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth or adoption of their child. (The MMLA applies to employers with six or more employees).
This all unfolded in a strange manner, to say the very least. There has been no formal written announcement. The MCAD online regs have not been changed to include fathers. The underlying statute still refers only to “female employees”, and makes no mention of fathers. There has been no formal press release or request for comment or feedback from the Massachusetts business community. Legislation by adminstrative fiat.
Apparently, the MCAD Commissioner announced this at a speaking event at a law firm in Boston in early June. His comments were confirmed in a follow-up interview by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, which quotes the Commissioner as follows:
I’m not going to tell you how we are going to come out on every case, because it depends on the facts and circumstances presented,” he said. “But what we are saying is that if a man now walks in and makes a complaint, we are going to take that complaint and investigate it – which, yes, is something that wouldn’t have happened in the past.
This is all a bit weird, but then again, this is Massachusetts. Maybe now that California has followed Massachusetts’ precedent and made same sex marriage legal (judicial fiat, in both states), Massachusetts regulators felt they needed to do this to keep one step ahead.
Will there be a court challenge to this new policy? You can bet your life on it. Massachusetts employment lawyers are already jockeying to be the lucky lawyer to bring that case.
Our firm’s Client Advisory on this issue is linked here.