MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy

Emerson College (“the College” or “Emerson”) is committed to compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws entitling employees to take leaves of absence, including the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (“PFML”). This policy details PFML benefits and related procedures. It applies to all MA faculty and staff.

Employees should note that their entitlement to leave under the PFML differs from rights to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in some respects. For that reason, employees should refer to the Emerson FMLA policies for additional information on that type of leave. 

To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, leave under the PFML will run concurrently with leave, whether paid or unpaid, taken under other applicable state and federal leave laws, including the FMLA and the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, Emerson’s Short-Term Disability or Long-Term Disability policies, and/or leave provided under any applicable collective bargaining agreement. 

This policy is intended to provide an overview of information as to PFML leave allotments, employee eligibility, processes and procedures for applying for PFML leave and benefits, and returning to work at the conclusion of the leave period. Please note that the PFML law allows employers to apply to the State for an exemption from contributing to the State fund that pays these benefits if the employer provides benefits as least as generous as the State offers through a “private plan.” A “private plan” is one that is funded by a private insurance plan or an employer directly, rather than by the State. The College has obtained a private plan exemption and its plan is being insured and administered through a third-party vendor. 

Eligibility for PFML

Eligible employees may take up to a total of twenty-six (26) weeks of PFML in a “benefit year.” A “benefit year” is defined as the 52 consecutive weeks beginning on the Sunday immediately preceding the first date on which an employee begins taking any type of leave that is associated with a qualifying reason. 

To be eligible to receive PFML, an employee must have been paid wages by a Massachusetts employer in the four (4) quarters prior to the leave in an amount equal to at least thirty (30) times the weekly benefit rate and at least the dollar amount calculated annually by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance pursuant to M.G.L. c. 151A, § 24(a).  Wages earned at a prior Massachusetts employer will be counted when determining eligibility. 

Employees remain eligible for PFML for 26 weeks after they separate from employment to the extent they met the financial eligibility test at the time of their separation.

Types of PFML

Eligible employees may take PFML for the following reasons:

Beginning January 1, 2021:

  1. Medical Leave: Employees are eligible for up to twenty (20) weeks of medical leave in a benefit year for a serious health condition that incapacitates them from work. 
  2. Family Leave — Bonding: Employees are eligible for up to twelve (12) weeks of family leave in a benefit year to bond with a child during the first twelve (12) months after the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement with the employee. In the case of multiple births, no more than twelve (12) weeks of leave benefits total are available in a benefit year for this purpose.
  3. Family Leave — Military Exigency: Employees are eligible for up to twelve (12) weeks of family leave due to a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to activity duty in the Armed Forces.
  4. Family Leave — Care of a Covered Service Member: Employees are eligible for up to twenty-six (26) weeks of family leave in order to care for a family member who is a covered service member, as defined in PFML.

Beginning July 1, 2021:

  1. Family Leave: Employees are eligible for up to twelve (12) weeks of family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition 

For purposes of this policy, a “family member” is defined as the spouse, domestic partner, child, parent or parent of a spouse or domestic partner of the covered employee, a grandchild, grandparent or sibling of the covered employee, or a person who stood in loco parentis to the covered employee when the covered employee was a minor child (“in loco parentis” means a person who put themself in the situation of a parent to the employee by assuming the typical rights and duties of parent to child). 

Please note that when two Emerson employees are taking any type of Family Leave (whether for bonding or to care for the same family member), each employee gets their own allotment of weeks as detailed above. 

Paid Leave & Coordination with Other Paid Benefits

Paid Benefit

Emerson’s PFML insurance provider is responsible for reviewing and approving applications for PFML and paying employees a weekly benefit during the approved leave period. The paid leave benefit is calculated based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of the filing of a request for leave and that of the established MA average weekly wage, up to a maximum benefit amount. 

Coordination with Short-Term Disability (STD) 

Employees eligible for PFML and Emerson’s Short-Term Disability policy (STD) may “top off” their PFML benefit using STD, up to 60% of their base salary (i.e. use STD to supplement the PFML benefit up to 60% of base pay). To the extent employees exhaust or are otherwise ineligible for the PFML benefit, they may access any remaining benefits available to them under the Short-Term Disability policy if eligible. These rules apply in the same manner for employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement. 

Coordination with Paid Time Off (PTO)

Employees may, but are not required to, use their accrued PTO (vacation, sick or personal time) during PFML leave, including during the unpaid initial 7-day waiting period.

Employees who take a leave for a reason covered by the PFML, but who elect to use accrued paid leave such as vacation, sick or personal time in lieu of the PFML benefit, will have that time run concurrently (i.e. at the same time) with PFML time. 

Employees who take PFML may “top off” their PFML benefit with any accrued paid vacation, sick or personal time up to the employee’s base salary. When benefits also are available under Emerson’s Short-Term Disability policy, the PFML benefit will be supplemented first by the applicable Short-Term Disability policy benefit to the maximum pay available under that policy, and then by any accrued paid vacation, sick or personal time.

Coordination with Government Benefits and Other Sources of Income

An employee’s weekly PFML benefit will be reduced by the amount of any unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, or other such government disability benefits the employee is receiving. An employee receiving wages from another employer during their PFML leave will have their weekly benefit reduced to the extent that a combination of such PFML benefits and wages exceeds the employee’s average weekly wage.

Requesting Leave/Process for Filing for PFML

Employees are required to provide their manager (first) and Emerson’s insurance provider (immediately thereafter) with at least 30 calendar days’ notice of the anticipated start date of PFML leave. If it is beyond the employee’s control to provide at least 30 days’ notice, notice must be provided as soon as practicable. 

Unless there are unusual circumstances, employees taking PFML are required to comply with Emerson’s regular notice procedure for requesting/reporting the need for leave. Please refer to the Attendance and Reliability policy or speak to your manager with questions. 

If an employee does not provide timely notice or does not follow usual and customary notice procedures for taking a leave, and no unusual circumstances exist justifying the employee’s failure to do so, the employee’s PFML leave and application may be delayed or denied by Emerson’s insurance provider. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action for failure to follow usual and customary notice procedures.

Employees planning medical treatment must consult with their manager before making application to Emerson’s insurance provider for leave and make reasonable efforts to schedule treatment so as to not unduly disrupt business operations, subject to the approval of the employee’s health care provider. 

Required Medical Information/Medical Certifications

Employees applying for PFML must provide Emerson’s insurance provider with consent to share information regarding their application for benefits and other information necessary to process the individual’s PFML request, including consent to share information with their health care provider.
All applications for PFML benefits must be supported by a certification evidencing that the leave is for a PFML qualifying reason. 

Approval for PFML and Seven-Day Wait Period

Emerson’s insurance provider will assess a completed application (including any required certification) for PFML and either approve or deny the request. Once an employee’s application is approved, the employee has an obligation to notify the insurance provider if there are any changes in circumstances that would justify an extension, reduction or other change in the leave period or amount of benefits. 

No PFML benefits are payable during the first 7 calendar days after the date on which the leave begins. The 7-day period will be counted against the total available leave period in the benefit year. If the approved PFML is for intermittent or reduced schedule leave, the waiting period begins on the first day of leave and continues for 7 days thereafter. There is no additional 7-day waiting period for an employee who is already on PFML for medical leave during a pregnancy or recovery from childbirth and then commences PFML for bonding with a newborn child. 

Reduced Work Schedule/Intermittent PFML

PFML may be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule basis if medically necessary. 

Intermittent PFML can be taken in increments of no less than fifteen (15) minute increments.

Employees approved for intermittent leave must work with Emerson to make an effort to take leave so as not to unduly disrupt operations. An employee who is approved for and takes PFML on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule and fails to work during the times or on the schedule agreed to with Emerson may be subject to disciplinary action, and Emerson will notify the insurance provider of the employee’s failure to adhere to the agreed-upon intermittent or reduced leave schedule.

Extensions of PFML

Employees seeking an extension of PFML must file a request with Emerson’s insurance provider fourteen (14) days before the expiration of the originally approved PFML period. The employee is required to provide the insurance provider with written notice should the status of an employee’s circumstances justify an extension, reduction or other modification of the period of leave or amount of benefits within seven (7) calendar days. 

Continuation of Benefits and Accrual of Paid Time Off

During the duration of PFML, Emerson will continue to provide for and contribute to an employee’s employment-related health insurance benefits, if any, at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued working continuously for the duration of such leave. 

Emerson will continue to pay its normal share of the cost of an employee’s health insurance costs while the employee is out on approved PFML leave. Employees are required to continue to pay their share of the cost of these benefits in order to continue coverage. Employees who are receiving any form of pay from Emerson during PFML leave will continue to pay for benefits through payroll deductions. Employees must otherwise arrange to pay their share of the applicable benefit payments. Employees’ failure to pay their portion of the benefit costs may lead to benefit coverage being cancelled.

Sick, vacation and personal time accruals, and the accrual of seniority as applicable, will continue during the period of the leave. Use of PFML will not result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an employee’s leave.

Return from PFML

Generally, upon return from PFML an employee will be restored to their previous position, or an equivalent position with the same pay, employment benefits, length-of-service credit and seniority as of the date of leave. Upon reinstatement, taking PFML will not affect an employee’s previously held right to accrue vacation, sick or personal time, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length-of-service credit, or other employment benefits, plans or programs. 

Employees who are hired for a specific term or only to perform work on a discrete project shall not be reinstated if the employment term or project is over and Emerson would not otherwise have continued to employ the employee.

Employees taking medical leave for their own serious health condition will be required to provide a fitness-for-duty certification before returning to work. Failure to provide the required fitness-for-duty certification may delay the employee’s restoration.

An employee who fails to return to work or to the employee's regular work schedule following the expiration of the leave period may be subject to disciplinary action. 

Employee Right to Appeal

Employees have the right to a first-level appeal of a denial by Emerson’s insurance provider of an application for PFML benefits. Intent to appeal must be submitted to the insurance provider within fifteen (15) calendar days of the denial. If the insurance provider upholds the denial, employees have a right for a second-level appeal to the Department of Family & Medical Leave.

Employee Protections Under the PFML

Emerson shall not threaten to retaliate or retaliate by discharging, firing, suspending, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee for exercising their rights under the PFML. However, Emerson reserves its right to take disciplinary action, up to and including termination, with respect to employees who have been determined to have received benefits based on a false statement.