On September 19, 2019, Attorney Nathan Olin of Olin Lippiello LLP co-presented a seminar for legal practitioners on the new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) at the Hampden County courthouse. Many employers are already gearing up for the new administrative structure, as just last week, on October 1st, covered employers began making payroll deductions. As Olin explained, however, the substance of the law really takes effect on January 1, 2021.
Beginning in 2021, covered Massachusetts employees will be entitled under the PFMLA to take up to 20 weeks in a year of paid medical leave to care for their own serious health condition and up to 12 weeks related to birth, adoption, or foster care or (beginning on July 1, 2021) to care for a family member with a serious health condition. There is also paid leave available for employees who are dealing with exigencies related to family members who are called into Armed Forces active duty.
Of course, there are dollar limits on PFMLA benefits, which will be administered by a new state agency, and there are also strict conditions as to which employees are eligible in the first place. To that end, Olin cautions, affected workers should also seek the counsel of an experienced employee-side attorney.
One huge benefit to employees, noted Olin, is that the PFMLA has “baked-in protections against retaliation and interference with workers’ attempts to take paid leave.” For example, if an employee seeks to take paid leave, but is fired or demoted within six months, the law will “presume” that employer retaliated against her. Moreover, the employer will have to rebut that presumption by a high level of proof, i.e., “clear and convincing evidence.” Also, affected employees who successfully sue for PFMLA violations may be entitled to their damages being tripled and reimbursement for their attorney’s fees.
Numerous studies have concluded that there are extensive benefits to the economy and workers’ health when employees can take appropriate medical leave to care for themselves or their close family members, without fear of retribution or reprisal. The PFMLA in Massachusetts is another step in the direction of reclaiming some protection for the American worker.
Nathan Olin is a founding partner of Olin Lippiello LLP. His practice focuses on protecting the rights of employees in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.