Massachusetts New Sick Leave Law

Approved by Massachusetts voters in November of 2014, the Earned Sick Time law will go into effect on July 1, 2015. The new law allows for employees to earn and use sick time as long as they meet certain conditions. The law will impact all Massachusetts employers and employees.

Who is eligible?

If your primary place of work is Massachusetts, or in other words you work over 50% of your time in Massachusetts, then you are eligible to accrue and use earned sick time.

How much sick time can an employee accrue?

Employers with 11 or more employees, part-time or otherwise, must provide employees with paid sick leave. Employers with less than 11 workers must provide unpaid sick hours at a minimum. For every 30 hours that an employee works, their employer is required to give them a minimum of one hour of sick leave. There is a maximum of 40 hours of sick time to be accrued per year for each employee. These hours begin to accrue on the date of hire or on July 1st, whichever date comes later. Employees are first able to use sick time on the 90th day after hire.

How is the pay of earned sick time calculated?

Sick leave pay must be at the same hourly rate that the employee earns at the current time of the paid sick leave. For hourly employees, that means the same base wage rates and benefits apply. For employees paid on a fee or salary basis, the amount of pay received amounts to the earnings of the last pay period divided by hours worked.

When can an employee use earned sick time?

(1) To care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical care, or preventative medical care
(2) To care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical care, or preventative medical care
(3) To go to a medical appointment or a routine medical appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of spouse
(4) To address the effects of domestic violence.

Employees should always notify their employers when using sick time. If an agreement can be reached with the employer, an employee can prevent using accrued sick leave by scheduling in extra hours to work to cover the time missed. However, an employer can in no way force an employee to do so if the employee wishes to instead use up their accrued sick time.

What about unused sick time?

Employees can carry over a maximum of 40 hours of unused sick time to the next year. Unlike unused vacation time, an employer is not required to pay out unused sick time at the end of employment.

Can an employer ask for certification on sick time use?

Employers can require certification if and only if an employee uses sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. Employers may not suspend payment during that time however.

What if an employer violates this sick time law?

Employers who interfere with the exercise of the paid sick time law will be held accountable and can be charged by employees in court for up to 25,000$ per violation. Additional civil suits may be filed as well by employees to account for the legal fees and treble damages associated with the previous case.

Is there a posting requirement?

Yes. A multilingual copy of the notice prepared by the attorney general must be posted in a known location and copies must be provided to employees.

What about existing sick time policies?

As long as the old sick time policy is in accordance with the new one and provides at least the same amount of time off, then there need not be any change to the old policy. The new law does not require employers to lower their existing obligations if they are more generous than those in the proposed law, as the new law does not override existing employer obligations.

How should employers prepare for this?

Employers should review their current sick time policies to make sure they are in accordance with the new law. They should also make sure that their records regarding accrued sick time are well organized and accurate.

If you as an employee or employer have any further questions or are in need of legal services, contact Levine-Piro Law for a free 30 minute consultation at 978-637-2048 or email office@levinepirolaw.com