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Massachusetts Voters Approve Ballot Question Mandating Paid Sick Time

On Nov. 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question that entitles employees to earn up to 40 hours of sick time each year.

Employees who work for Massachusetts employers having 11 or more employees could earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees working for smaller employers could earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per year.

Earned Sick Time Requirements

  • Employees will earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked and will begin accruing leave on the date of hire or July 1, 2015, whichever is later.

  • Employees are entitled to begin using the earned sick time on the 90th day after hire.

  • Exempt employees will earn paid sick time based on the assumption of a 40-hour work week, unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours, in which case their paid time would accrue based on their normal work week.

  • The law entitles employees to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year, but employees may not use more than 40 hours of sick time in any calendar year. Unlike unused vacation time in Massachusetts, employers are not required to pay employees for unused sick time at the end of their employment.

  • While employers may require certification of the need for sick time when more than 24 consecutive hours of earned sick leave is requested, employers may not delay the taking of, or payment for, earned sick time because they have not received the certification. An employee is not required to provide documentation for absences of fewer than 24 consecutive hours.

Uses of Sick Leave

An employee can use sick time if required to miss work for any of the following reasons:

  • To care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition.

  • 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.

  • To attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent or parent of a spouse.

  • To address the effects of domestic violence.

Action Steps for Employers

  • Employers should institute or revise their existing sick leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law.

  • Massachusetts employers who already provide a Paid Time-Off (PTO) benefit are advised to determine whether they are providing the minimum sick time requirements under the new law and to consider whether carving out sick time from the PTO benefit would be appropriate. Such a carve-out may prevent the mandatory sick time from being applied in addition to an employee’s PTO bank.

  • Employers should also take note that the law bars employers from simply paying out unused sick time at the end of the year as opposed to allowing an employee to carry it over to the next year. Similarly, employers with “use it or lose it” sick time policies will be required to make necessary changes.

Notice and Enforcement

  • The law amends M.G.L. c. 149 by adding new section 148C.

  • The law will be enforced by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

  • The law is effective on April 1, 2015.

©2022 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 323

About this Author

Jack Gearan, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Education, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Jack S. Gearan is a lawyer in the Boston office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. He concentrates his practice in the areas of business litigation and employment law. Jack has experience in all phases of civil litigation including discovery, mediation, arbitration and trial.

Jack’s business litigation practice covers a variety of business torts, including misrepresentation, fraud, contract disputes, and claims under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A – the Massachusetts unfair trade practices statute.

Jack also regularly...

Justin Keith, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Justin F. Keith represents employers in all areas of labor and employment law—including litigation of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, reductions in force, and numerous other personnel and workplace issues—before state and federal agencies and in courts throughout the country

He is experienced with wage and hour class actions brought under the Massachusetts Wage Act and nationwide collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. He represents employers across a broad spectrum of industries, including retail,...

Terence McCourt, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Terence P. McCourt is Managing Shareholder of the Boston office and Chairman of its Labor & Employment Practice. He represents a broad range of organizations in all facets of management-side labor and employment law. During more than two decades of practice, Terry has gained a national reputation for his practical, solution-oriented approach to employment law issues.

With wide-ranging litigation experience, Terry handles diverse employment matters, including employment discrimination and wrongful termination cases in state and federal courts...