Employers Should Know New Veterans' Paid Leave and Anti-Discrimination Law

Date: October 03, 2016 Last Edit: October 06, 2016

Massachusetts has a new law requiring paid leave for veterans who participate in Veterans Day parades and ceremonies. Within the Act relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service and Enrichment is a requirement that employers provide paid leave to qualified veterans on Veterans Day under certain conditions.

Massachusetts has a new law requiring paid leave for veterans who participate in Veterans Day parades and ceremonies. Within the Act relative to Housing, Operations, Military Service and Enrichment (the HOME Act, Chapter 141of the Acts of 2016) is a requirement that employers provide paid leave to qualified veterans on Veterans Day under certain conditions.

Massachusetts law (Chapter 149, Section 52A ½) had previously required employers to grant qualified veterans a leave of absence of sufficient duration on Veterans Day and Memorial Day to allow veterans to participate in Veterans Day and Memorial Day activities. The leave could be paid or unpaid at the employer’s discretion. The 2016 law, known as the Home Act, inserts a new first paragraph in General Laws Chapter 149, Section 52A ½. The amended law requires employers with 50 or more employees to grant a leave of absence on Veterans Day with pay to qualified veterans, provided that the employee provides “reasonable notice” for such leave. 

As written, the HOME Act does not require employers to grant paid leave on Memorial Day. The duration of the paid leave on Veterans Day is not clear. And the section is not applicable to employees whose services are essential and critical to the public health or safety and essential to the safety and security of the employer or the employer’s property.

A “qualified veteran” is any person with an honorable discharge who served in any branch of the U.S. military or who served full time in the National Guard under certain conditions.  Any person who served in wartime and was awarded a service-connected disability or Purple Heart is also a qualifying veteran.

The new law also prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on their veteran status and adds “veteran status” as a protected class under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act. Previously, active military personnel were protected by the Fair Employment Practices Act, but veterans were not.  M.G.L. 151B §4.  Employers must now treat “veteran status” as a protected class, much like race, ancestry, color, religion, etc.

Related Content: News | State | Massachusetts | Paid Leave

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