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Different benefits for different employees? - Massachusetts/Rhode Island

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  • Different benefits for different employees? - Massachusetts/Rhode Island

    I am not sure if this question belongs here, or maybe more generally in the Discrimination or Disability forum, but I hope this is the right place.

    I am a Massachusetts resident and an employee at a law firm in Boston. The firm is based in Providence, Rhode Island (the main office is there). The Boston office (where I work) is the second office.

    The firm’s maternity leave policy gives fully paid time off to attorneys and paralegals – in other words, they receive their full pay while out on maternity leave, without the implementation of any temporary disability policy.

    The rules are different, however, when it comes to staff/secretaries. The staff/secretary maternity leave policy states:

    “Any female support staff employee is eligible to take maternity leave prior to and following delivery not to exceed a total of 13 weeks. Benefits and/or salary will be paid in accordance with the temporary disability policy.”

    The temporary disability policy which (applies only to Providence office employees – there is no temporary disability insurance for Boston office employees) states:

    “All regular full-time secretarial and other support staff employees of the Firm who are required to be absent for an extended period (i.e., more than one week) because of illness or injury, other than that which is compensable under the Workers Compensation Act, shall be entitled to their base weekly salary less an amount equal to the weekly benefit for which they are eligible under the Rhode Island Temporary Disability Act (applicable to Providence office employees only), for the number of weeks set forth below according to their years of service with the Firm.

    Years of Service Number of Weeks
    6 months-2 years 2
    2-4 years 4
    4-9 years 6
    10 or more years 8”

    What this all means is that staff/secretarial employees of the Boston office are not entitled to any pay at all during maternity leave, even though the lawyers and paralegals get full pay (regardless of office location). Furthermore, staff/secretarial employees of the Providence office are entitled to only a certain amount of pay during maternity leave depending on their years of service, even though all the lawyers and paralegals get full pay (regardless of office location).

    So my question is:

    1. Is this legal, to have different policies for different levels of employees? If "yes" - can you point me to the law(s) that say so?

    2. And on a similar note, can the firm offer a temporary disability policy to one office (Providence) but not the other (Boston)?

    Thank you so much!!!

  • #2
    The answer is yes to both. Not because any law gives an employer permission to have different levels of benefits, but because no law prohibits it.

    The law only requires that differences in benefits NOT be based on a characteristic protected by law. What office you work for or what level employee you are classed as, are not protected characteristics.

    It is very, very common for different offices to have different benefits, and even more common for the level of benefits available to different levels of employees to be different.

    Nothing you have described is illegal or even uncommon.

    FYI, disabilty coverage is mandatory in RI but not in MA.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

    Comment


    • #3
      As cbg stated, the answers are yes and yes.

      It is very common for employers to have different policies for different "classes" of employees - exempt vs. non-exempt, management vs. non-management, office vs. factory and so on. Same goes for different locations of the same company. I can't point you to a law that says so because laws state what's not allowed, not what is. There is no law that prohibits employers from having different benefits and policies for different classes of employees.

      In law firms, it is extremely common for lawyers to have more generous benefits than the non-lawyers. Among other reasons, the lawyers (and paralegals) are the ones billing time and bringing in the revenue. And even among the lawyers, there will be different benefits and compensation plans - more generous for the shareholders/partners and less so for the associate attorneys. As they say, rank has it's priviledges.

      Comment


      • #4
        Someone on another forum told me that "MA has its own version of MMLA which in addition to covering men also addresses in part if paid leaves are provided to some they must be provided to all"

        This would seem to support my feeling that the staff/secretaries at my firm should be getting the same benefits (i.e. full pay maternity leave) as everyone else. Does anyone have any more information on this specifically?

        Comment


        • #5
          Whoever told you that is wrong.

          The MMLA refers to the amount of time off available. It does not require paid leave and does not mandate that all employees must receive exactly the same benefits.

          A MA law also has no teeth in RI.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

          Comment


          • #6
            From the MMLA http://www.mass.gov/mcad/maternity1.html#3

            IV. When Leave May be Taken, and the Type of Leave Taken
            A. When Maternity Leave May be Taken

            Maternity leave under the MMLA is available to a female employee either "for the purpose of giving birth" or to adopt a child. Thus, it is available at the time of the birth or adoption, but not substantially earlier or substantially later.

            B. Paid or Unpaid Leave and Entitlement to Benefits

            The MMLA does not require that leave be paid or that maternity leave be included in the computation of benefits, rights and advantages incident to employment, or that an employer pay for the costs of any benefits, plans or programs during the maternity leave. [3]

            An employee may, however, be entitled to receive pay or benefits during her maternity leave pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, company policy, employment contract or other agreement with the employer. In addition, if an employer generally provides pay, benefits or the costs of such benefits to employees on non-MMLA leaves of absence, the employer must provide the same such pay, benefits or costs to employees on MMLA leave. For example, if an employer generally provides pay to employees who are on extended sick leave, the employer must provide pay to employees on maternity leave

            Comment


            • #7
              Keep in mind, however, that nothing in the MMLA prohibits different levels of benefits for different employees.

              Edited to add: I might have known it would be Drew telling you that. MA is my state. It is not his. I have been trained on what is and is not required by the MMLA - I doubt that Drew can make the same claim.
              Last edited by cbg; 03-14-2011, 09:43 AM.
              The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by cbg View Post
                Keep in mind, however, that nothing in the MMLA prohibits different levels of benefits for different employees.

                Edited to add: I might have known it would be Drew telling you that. MA is my state. It is not his. I have been trained on what is and is not required by the MMLA - I doubt that Drew can make the same claim.
                Who is Drew & where is their post? edited to add - maybe poster on other forum.
                Last edited by Betty3; 03-14-2011, 12:02 PM.
                Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A poster on another forum who doesn't hesitate to weigh in with his opinion and/or legal information whether it's remotely accurate or not.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Betty - he's on another forum where I don't think you participate - I'll give you details offline later. I probably shouldn't have posted that at all.
                    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      After rereading thread, I noted OP mentioned poster on another forum & what they told her so then I assumed them.
                      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                      Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                      Comment

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