This case challenged a guideline of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) concerning an employer’s liability under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”), G. L. c. 149, § 105D. The MMLA requires that employees be provided with eight weeks of unpaid maternity leave and reinstatement to their positions at the end of the eight weeks. The MMLA expressly allows employers to agree to more generous benefits, such as a longer leave period. An employer who violates the MMLA’s requirement of eight weeks’ leave and reinstatement is subject to extensive statutory remedies, including damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. An MCAD guideline provides that, when an employer agrees to a longer leave period, the statutory remedies will apply in the event of breach of that agreement unless the employer gives advance written notice that full MMLA rights will not apply.
The plaintiff in this case was terminated from her job after taking a maternity leave of 11 weeks. The jury found that Global NAPs had violated an agreement that Stephens could take an 11-week leave and, following instructions based on the MCAD guideline, awarded Stephens statutory punitive and emotional distress damages. In the appeal of this decision, NELF filed an amicus brief on behalf of itself and the Associated Industries of Massachusetts arguing that, by extending the MMLA’s liability provisions to the entire duration of an agreed-upon leave (unless an employer gives advance written notice that the MMLA will not apply), the MCAD guideline contravenes the unambiguous eight-week requirement of the MMLA, discourages the flexibility in private arrangements that the MMLA sought to encourage, and transforms a common law claim for breach of contract into an MMLA violation.
In a decision rendered on November 8, 2007, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the appeal was untimely and, therefore, did not address NELF’s arguments.