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Can my employeer fire me because I can't work full-time hours since I am breastfeeding my baby?

Attleboro, MA |

I work for a company in MA with more than 50 employees. My child was born in December. After the birth, I spent the first 12 weeks at home to care after my child on an unpaid maternity leave. While I was pregnant, I spoke to my manager and he agred that I would work part-time for some time after the 12 weeks so I could breastfeed my child. Now that I have returned to work, my manager has told me that the company needs me to begin working full-time hours. I can't work full-time hours and I am afraid that they will fire me. Can I ask them to give me a lay-off instead?

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Attorney answers 4


Congratulations on having a baby. Unless you are discriminated against on the basis of a protected class and your manager fires you because of that or you felt like you had no choice but to leave your employment, it may be difficult to make out a discrimination claim. Massachusetts is an at will jurisdiction so you can generally be fired or quit with no notice or reason. Even though your employer said before you took time off that you could work full time is not a guarantee of employment. You can always ask to be laid off if that is what you want. You may want to consult an employment attorney for further assistance or information. Best of luck.

Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. (It lets us know how we are doing.) Attorney Kremer is licensed to practice in Massachusetts. Please visit her Avvo profile for contact information. In accordance with Avvo guidelines, the following disclaimer applies to all responses given in this forum: The above is NOT legal advice, and is NOT intended to be legal advice. No Attorney-Client relationship is created through the above answer.

Emma A. Kremer

Emma A. Kremer


Attorney Taylor is an employment attorney and I defer to her expertise with respect to your claim for discrimination.


Congratulations on the birth of your child. A 2012 SJC case held that the protections of the Equal Rights Act extend to lactating mothers. I strongly suggest that you consult an employment law attorney to discuss the specifics of your case in more detail. Many attorneys, myself included, offer free consultations. Good luck!

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I agree with my colleague who mentions the court decision last year granting certain rights to lactating mothers. Also, you should know that MA has its own mini-FMLA. See the excerpt below from my blog. Good luck.

An employee is eligible if he or she has worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months (an average of 24 hours per week). Massachusetts has a supplemental law called the Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA). An eligible employee is entitled to a total of 24 hours of leave during any 12-month period, in addition to leave available under FMLA, to: (1) participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a son or daughter of the employee, such as parent-teacher conferences or interviewing for a new school;(2) accompany the son or daughter of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments, such as check-ups or vaccinations; and (3) accompany an elderly relative of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments or appointments for other professional services related to the elder’s care, such as interviewing at nursing or group homes.

This information should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.


You have a variety of rights, including the right to have an appropriate room at work should you wish to pump. You may also have the ability under FMLA (or the equivalent mass. statutes) to use your leave in small increments. You may also be abla to find a medical justification which would require them to grant you additional leave.

However, employees don't generally have the right to insist on part time work as a convenience, even if the goal of part time work is otherwise laudatory (i.e. you want to spend more time with your child.)

Call a lawyer.

Do you want accurate, personalized, legal advice that you can rely on? You will have to hire an attorney, not ask on Avvo. I am not your attorney and am not creating an attorney-client relationship by this post. I am therefore giving only general advice. This advice may not apply to you or your situation; may not take account of all possibilities, and may not match the advice I would give to a client. DO NOT rely on this advice or any other advice on Avvo to make your legal decisions. If you want an answer to a legal question you should retain an attorney who is licensed in your state.

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