Massachusetts Enacts Expansive Paid Family and Medical Leave Legislation

Labor & Employment @lert

Date: August 09, 2018

On June 28, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law House Bill 4640, “An Act Relative to Minimum Wage, Paid Family Medical Leave and the Sales Tax Holiday.” In addition to incrementally increasing the minimum wage and eliminating premium Sunday pay for retail workers, the new law establishes an expansive paid family and medical leave program that will be phased in over the next several years.

Enforcement Timeline

Though the implementation of this paid family and medical leave program will be gradual, employers with employees in Massachusetts should start taking proactive steps toward compliance, as the first set of deadlines is less than one year away.

Date

Requirement

July 1, 2019

Employers must post a notice of the paid family and medical leave program and provide written notice to each employee explaining the program’s benefits, employee and employer contribution amounts and obligations, and information on filing a claim for benefits.
July 1, 2019 Employers must begin contributing to the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund at a rate of 0.63 percent of each employee’s wages.
January 1, 2021 Employees may take paid leave.

Eligibility

All Massachusetts employees will be eligible for paid family or medical leave at the beginning of the program, regardless of the employer’s size or an employee’s length of service with the employer. Additionally, former employees will remain eligible for paid leave under the program if their leave starts within 26 weeks following their separation from employment.

Leave Entitlement

An employee is eligible for up to a combined maximum of 26 weeks of paid family and medical leave benefits in a given benefit year. Under the program, leave entitlement is separated into three categories:

Type

Maximum Length

Reasons for Leave

Family leave

12 weeks

Bond with a child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or placement for foster care or adoption.

Care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Qualifying exigency arising out of a family member being on active duty or being notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces.
Family leave to care for a covered servicemember

26 weeks

Care for a family member who is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness incurred or aggravated by service in the line of duty in the Armed Forces.
Medical leave

20 weeks

Employee’s own serious health condition.


The definition of a family member under the Massachusetts program is much broader than that of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and includes an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.

Compensation and Contributions

The Massachusetts paid family and medical leave program will be funded by a payroll tax paid into the Family and Employment Security Trust Fund. Employees will be entitled to a weekly benefit amount taken from this fund during their leave after the first seven calendar days. This amount is determined by a combination of (1) 80 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage that is less than 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage, and (2) 50 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage that is more than 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. The weekly benefit amount will be capped at $850 per week and reduced by the amount an employee receives under workers’ compensation or a company’s permanent disability policy.

Employers are required to contribute to the fund at a rate of 0.63 percent of each employee’s wages. For medical leave, employers with more than 25 employees may deduct up to 40 percent of those contributions from an employee’s wages. For family leave, employers with more than 25 employees may deduct up to the full 100 percent of those contributions from an employee’s wages. Employers with fewer than 25 employees in Massachusetts are not required to pay the employer portions of any contributions for either family or medical leave.

Job Restoration and Protection

Similar to FMLA, employees who take leave under the program are entitled to job protection, where employees must be reinstated to their previously held positions or equivalent positions following their leave. In addition, employers cannot retaliate against employees who take leave under the program. The new law takes the federal standard a step higher and presumes that any adverse action (including any negative change in seniority, status, benefits, pay or other terms and conditions of employment) taken against employees during or within six months of their protected leave is retaliation.

Relation to Other Laws and Benefits

Paid leave under the Massachusetts program will run concurrently with FMLA and the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act. Employers cannot compel employees to use any accrued paid time off, sick leave or vacation time, but employees may elect to use the accrued time to supplement the program’s benefits. During the leave, the employer must continue to provide for and contribute to the employee’s health insurance benefits under the same conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

Next Steps

With the gradual phase-in of the program, Massachusetts employers should begin looking at their payroll systems or discussing next steps with their payroll providers to ensure that their systems can accommodate the payroll adjustments. Employers should also consider reviewing their leave policies with employment counsel to ensure compliance with the new leave requirements. Finally, employers should continue to monitor any developments and guidance on the new program and other laws.

Changes to Other State Laws

Thompson Hine’s Employment Legislation Outlook is a monthly digest designed to keep employers apprised of pending and recently enacted paid sick and safe leave laws such as Massachusetts’ new family and medical leave program. If you would like to receive these updates, please subscribe to our Labor & Employment mailing list.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, please contact:

Candice S. Thomas
513.352.6508
Candice.Thomas@ThompsonHine.com

Megan S. Glowacki
513.352.6503
Megan.Glowacki@ThompsonHine.com

M. Scott Young
513.352.6617
Scott.Young@ThompsonHine.com

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