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New Earned Sick Time Law in MA

Massachusetts’ new earned “sick time” law takes effect on July 1, 2015 (the “Effective Date”).  The new law requires employers with eleven (11) or more employees to grant their employees, full or part-time, the right to accrue paid sick leave up to 40 hours per year.  Employers with ten (10) or fewer employees must grant unpaid sick leave up to forty (40) hours per year.  The sick time, paid or unpaid, will accrue at a minimum rate of one (1) hour for every thirty (30) hours worked.  Those employees exempt from overtime laws will be presumed to work 40 hours per week, or less if their actual hours worked each week are fewer than 40 hours, for the purpose of calculating the accrual of sick time.  The accrual of sick time begins on the Effective Date, or the date of hire, whichever is later. 

For employers with existing paid time off policies, there is a ”safe harbor” period from July 1, 2015 through the end of the calendar year.  As of May 1, 2015, any employer already providing its employees with the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during 2015, will be deemed compliant with the new law through the end of the year, subject to the statute’s non-retaliation and non-interference provisions.  Any employer who as of May 1, 2015 did not offer paid time off in an amount equal to 30 hours must still comply with the statute, as of July 1, 2015.

For newly hired employees, the employer may limit their use of paid sick time until the employee has worked ninety (90) days.  However, once an employee is eligible to use sick time, the employee may use sick time in the increments of either (i) one hour or (ii) the smallest increment of time that the employer uses in accounting for absences or other uses of time.  An employee can use earned sick time (1) to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; (2) to attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or (3) to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.

Employees must make a good faith effort to give advanced notice when the use of earned sick time is foreseeable.  Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to work additional hours or find a replacement for missed time.  An employee does not have to use his/her earned sick time if the employee arranges with the employer to make up the time in the same or next pay period, and the employer does not have to pay the employee for the missed time that is scheduled to be made up.

Employers may limit the employee’s total accrual to 40 hours per year, which may be carried over from year to year, although the maximum number of hours an employee may actually use during a given year may also be limited to40.  Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued sick time upon separation from the company.

The statute provides further protection to employees, including that an employer may not require proof/documentation of an illness until after the employee has missed 24 consecutively scheduled work hours, and employers cannot delay payment of wages for used sick time because the documentation has not yet been provided. An employer is prohibited from retaliation and/or interference with an employee’s use of earned sick time.

The employer must post a notice from the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General about the employee’s rights under the statute, and must also provide a copy to each employee. 

Of course, the law is the minimum benefit that must be provided, and an employer may choose to provide more generous benefits.  

If you have any questions about the new law and how it affects your employees, then please do not hesitate to contact us.