United States: What You Need to Know About The New Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law

By a margin of almost 20%, Massachusetts voters have approved a measure permitting all workers to earn up to 40 hours of sick time each year. With this vote, Massachusetts has joined a small group of states (including Connecticut and California) and municipalities that allow for earned sick time for workers. Here's what employers need to know about the new law.

  • The law goes into effect on July 1, 2015
  • All employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick time.
  • For employers with 11 or more workers, the earned sick time is paid time off.
  • For smaller employers (10 workers or fewer) the time off is without pay.
  • Sick time is earned at a rate of one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours.
  • Existing employees begin earning sick time on July 1, 2015.
  • Employees hired after July 1, 2015 begin earning sick time on the date of hire.
  • Employees cannot use any earned sick time during the first 90 days of employment. In effect, this provision will prevent most temporary and seasonal employees (i.e., employees hired by retail stores for the holiday rush) from using any earned sick time.
  • Earned sick time can be used:
    • to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee, or the employee's child, spouse, or parent of a spouse;
    • to attend routine medical appointments of the employee, or the employee's child, spouse, or parent of a spouse;
    • to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee's dependent child.
  • If the need for sick time is foreseeable, the employee must make a good faith effort to provide advance notice to the employer.
  • Employees using earned sick time for more than 24 consecutively-scheduled work hours may be required to provide certification, but employers cannot delay the use of sick time, or payment for sick time used, based on an employee's failure to provide the certification.
  • Employees can carry over unused earn sick time from year to year, but the maximum amount of earned sick time that can be accrued by any employee is capped at 40 hours.
  • By agreement with the employer, an employee may work extra hours during the same pay period, or the next pay period, instead of using earned sick time. However, employers cannot require employees to work extra hours to make up for sick time used.
  • Employers cannot retaliate against employees for using earned sick time, and cannot require an employee to find a replacement worker when they will be out sick.
  • Employees are not entitled to pay upon termination for unused earned sick time.

Employers whose current benefit programs already provide employees with paid time off sufficient to meet the accrual requirements, and usable for the same purposes provided in the law, are not required to provide any additional benefits under the new law.

Employers should review their existing policies and handbooks to ensure that they are in compliance with the new law by the time it goes into effect in July.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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