Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MA Court Ok's Firing Mom for Extended Maternity Leave

Justice Francis Spina wrote in the decision that "a female employee is only entitled to (the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act) when she is absent from employment for no more than eight weeks."

The case was brought by a housekeeper for the president of a small Quincy telecommunications firm, Global Naps Inc., who said her supervisor told her that she could take an unpaid maternity leave longer than eight weeks. But the plaintiff, Sandy Stephens, said that when she called her supervisor anticipating her return to work after 11 weeks, she learned she had been fired.

Though Stephens cited a Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination guideline that advises employers to notify employees in writing if they don’t plan to guarantee a job beyond eight weeks, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the guideline is not law.

Natalie Lukasik, 32, of Rockland, said the current law means she will quit her job on Nov. 14, when she is due to deliver a baby boy.

“They wouldn’t hold my position (beyond eight weeks),” she said. “There is no pay, there is no maternity leave.”

Also sporting a baby-bump yesterday was Milton hairstylist Sandra Carter, 26, who wondered how mothers could be expected to leave their infants at just 2 months old. Carter, whose due date was yesterday, said she’s one of the lucky ones - she doesn’t have to worry about jetting back to work, but she thinks the state should mandate a 12-month maternity leave.

State law guarantees women unpaid leave of up to eight weeks, which is often super-ceded by federal laws that guarantee 12 weeks of leave for workers at companies with 50 or more employees.

Portia Wu, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Partnership for Women & Families, called the ruling “astonishing.”

Yet Wu pointed out that Massachusetts ranks in the middle of states as far as maternity leave benefits go. The most generous is California, which provides parents six weeks of paid leave and four months of partially paid leave.