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MA Supreme Court Reaffirms Maternity Leave Limits

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 Monday that the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) guarantees women only 8 weeks of protected maternity leave. “A female employee is only entitled to MMLA rights when she is absent from employment for no more than eight weeks,” Justice Francis Spina wrote for the majority. The court ruled that if a Massachusetts woman takes additional maternity leave beyond eight weeks without the express consent of her employer, she will not be protected by MMLA. Women who are promised a longer leave through company policy or collective bargaining and are subsequently fired can sue their employers for breach of contract, reports the Associated Press. While federal law requires businesses that employ more than 50 workers to allow women 12 weeks of maternity leave, this ruling will affect women who work in smaller businesses with at least 6 employees in the state of Massachusetts, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The case was brought to the Massachusetts Supreme Court by Sandy Stephens, a housekeeper for the president of Global NAPs Inc., a small telecommunications firm in Quincy, MA, the Boston Globe reports. Stephens was promised an extended pregnancy leave by her employer if she needed to give birth via cesarean section, which she did. However, after 11 weeks of leave she discovered that she had been fired. Stephens sued in the Superior Court and received more than $1 million in compensation. This week’s ruling does not change the amount of compensation awarded to Stephens. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations in the world to not provide paid maternity leave. According to Catalyst, only 28.5% of women in the US receive paid maternity leave. Italy requires 5 months of paid maternity leave, which is the largest amount of paid maternity leave offered by any nation.

Sources:

Massachusetts Supreme Court; Associated Press 8/9/10; The Boston Globe 8/10/10; National Partnership for Women and Families 8/11/10; Catalyst

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