August 10, 2020

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August 10, 2020

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Massachusetts Voters Pass Mandatory Sick Time Law for All Employers, Effective July 1, 2015

Voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have approved a ballot measure requiring Massachusetts employers to provide up to 40 hours of sick time each calendar year to all employees. 

For Massachusetts employers with 11 or more employees, sick time must be paid; for employers with 10 or fewer employees, the sick time may be unpaid. This new sick time law is effective July 1, 2015. Employers should review their current leave policies or prepare new policies to address this new sick time requirement before its effective date.

The law has an expansive definition of “sick time.” It covers employees who need 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 homecare, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care, or (2) to care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition that requires homecare, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care, or (3) to attend the employee’s routine medical appointments or the routine medical appointments for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse or address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence.

Under the law, employers are required to provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked by an employee. Employees begin to accrue the earned sick time commencing on the date of their hire (or, for current employees, the effective date of the law, July 1, 2015), but they are not entitled to use their accrued sick time until the 90th calendar day following their hire date.

The law caps the amount of sick time earned in a calendar year at 40 hours. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused earned sick time to the next calendar year, but employees are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of sick time in one calendar year. Moreover, employers are not required to pay out unused earned sick time upon separation from employment (as opposed to earned but unused vacation pay, which must be paid out upon separation).

The law also states that employers who provide paid time off to employees under a paid time off, vacation or other paid leave policy that provides for the same or better accrual for reasons covered by the new law are not required to provide additional earned paid sick time. Employers with PTO or sick time policies who will continue those policies, therefore, should review their policies to determine if such policies comply with the new law.

The law empowers the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to enforce its provisions, but also provides for a private right of action by aggrieved individuals. The private right of action provision provides for the recovery of mandatory triple damages and attorneys’ fees. 

In addition, the law requires the Attorney General’s Office to prepare a workplace poster advising employees about the new law and to adopt rules and regulations regarding earned sick time, including regulations on employer obligations to make, keep, and preserve records regarding earned sick time. We anticipate the Attorney General’s Office will adopt these rules and regulations in the coming months.

Employers in Massachusetts should review their leave policies, including those that provide for paid time off, to ensure compliance prior to the July effective date.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 309

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About this Author

Brian E. Lewis, Jackson Lewis, disability management issues lawyer, restrictive covenants attorney
Principal

Brian E. Lewis is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He exclusively represents management in all facets of workplace law.

Mr. Lewis routinely advises clients regarding day-to-day employment issues, such as employee discipline and discharge, disability management issues, proper payment of wages, reductions in force, and restrictive covenants. Mr. Lewis also has experience in representing clients on traditional labor law issues, and has appeared before the National Labor Relations Board. He...

617-367-0025
Samia Kirmani, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Unemployment Counseling Attorney
Principal

Samia M. Kirmani is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She concentrates her practice in employment counseling, training and litigation on behalf of management.

Ms. Kirmani provides practical legal advice to clients on various employment law issues, including discrimination, health and leave management, reductions in force, retaliation and whistleblower matters, individual separations, and employee relations issues. Ms. Kirmani also assists clients with policy creation, revision and implementation and routinely conducts management and employee trainings on topics in employment law, including sexual harassment prevention and best management practices. Ms. Kirmani also advises clients with respect to drafting and implementing national arbitration agreements.

Ms. Kirmani defends employers in employment-related litigation and administrative proceedings at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. Ms. Kirmani is a frequent speaker and addresses Legal and Human Resources audiences on current and various workplace law topics, such as paid sick leave, arbitration agreements and class action waivers, and employment discrimination.

 

617-367-0025