Massachusetts Updates Parental Leave Guidelines for Anti-Discrimination Laws and PTO Policies

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The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) republished and expanded its Guidelines on the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act to reinforce its stance against primary caregiver/secondary caregiver policies and provide guidance on whether employers can require employees to use paid time off during parental leave.

Primary caregiver/secondary caregiver parental leave policies are “likely to violate” Massachusetts law:

  • These types of policies grant more weeks of parental leave to a designated “primary caregiver” (usually the mother by default) vs. a “secondary caregiver.”
  • By presuming the female is the primary caregiver, these policies are more likely to violate Massachusetts anti-discrimination law by perpetuating gender-based stereotypes and undermining the rights of (often male) co-parents.
  • In addition, requiring employees to prove that they are the primary caregiver goes against the spirit of laws made to enable both parents to take leave and spend time with their children.

For most paid time off benefits, employers cannot require employees to use these benefits toward parental leave:

  • Vacation or personal time may only be used at the discretion of the employee.
  • For companies offering paid sick leave, employers can require employees to use their sick leave benefits, but only up to 40 hours.

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