Massachusetts has added veteran status as a protected class under the state’s antidiscrimination law. (NOTE: For purposes of leave, a 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.)
Therefore, employers need to take a look at their employee handbook provisions related to the protected categories and include the term, “status as a veteran” to the list of protected classes.
The new law also amends Mass. Gen. L. Ch. 149, s. 52A½, which allows veterans who want to participate in a Veterans Day or Memorial Day exercise, parade, or service to take this time off to participate in those activities in their community of residence. For those employers with 50 or more employees, these veterans are to be provided with paid time off if they take time off on Veterans Day to participate in services in their community.
Employers need to amend their policies to provide paid leave to veterans who ask for leave on Veterans Day. Employers that don’t have handbook provisions covering the leave must make sure they understand their obligations under this little-known Massachusetts statute.