IMG_9187_HIRES

by Richard E. Burke, Esq.

Massachusetts has enacted a new sick time law and regulations effective July 1, 2015. The new law, Mass.G.L. c. 149, §148C, allows all employees in Massachusetts to earn sick time. Significantly, the law includes full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. Regulations further describing the requirements of the new law have been issued by the Massachusetts Attorney General. 940 CMR 33.00 et seq.

If an employer has 11 or more employees, the sick time must be paid. For employers with 10 or fewer employees, the sick time may be unpaid. Paid sick time must be paid on the same schedule and at the same rate as regular wages.

Employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. Employees can earn and use up to 40 hours per year if they work enough hours.

Employees with unused, earned sick time at the end of the year can rollover up to 40 hours. New employees begin earning sick time on the first day of work and may begin using earned sick time 90 days after starting work. This corresponds with the probation period many employers have for new employees.

Sick time can be used for the following purposes:

  • An employee can use sick time when the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse is sick, has a medical appointment, or has to address the effects of domestic violence.
  • The smallest amount of sick time an employee can take is one hour.
  • Sick time cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without advance notice of proper use.
  • Use of sick time for other purposes is not allowed and may result in an employee being disciplined.

The following notice and verification rules apply:

  • Employees must notify their employer before they use sick time, except in an emergency.
  • Employers may require employees to use a reasonable notification system the employer creates.
  • If an employee is out of work for three consecutive days or uses sick time within two weeks prior to leaving their job, an employer may require documentation from a medical provider.

Employers may have their own sick time or paid time off policies, as long as they are at least as generous as the new law, and correspond to all the requirements of the new law and regulations.

It is against the law for employers to retaliate against employees for asserting their rights under the law.

Employers are required to post the Attorney General’s Notice of Employee Rights in the workplace. The notice, regulations, sample employer sick time policy, and sample verification form regarding authorized use of sick leave are available on the Attorney General’s website at www.mass.gov/ago/doing-business-in-massachusetts.

Many employers may find it cumbersome to keep track of accrued sick time. One possible solution is to provide the sick time in advance at the commencement of each year. Alternatively, Massachusetts does not require employers to offer paid vacation leave. However, when vacation time is offered and accrued (earned) by the employee, all unused vacation time must be paid by the employer to the employee when the employment relationship ends, together with all unpaid wages. Under the new law, accrued sick time is not required to be paid out to employees on termination of employment. It is likely that many employers with paid time off or vacation policies will modify them to incorporate the rights now available to employees under the sick time law. The result may be that many employees do not end up with any additional paid leave than they had before the new law. The law will certainly benefit, however, employees in workplaces which previously offered no vacation leave or other paid time off.

It is never a good idea for an individual to read and interpret the law for himself, especially when it comes to how it will apply in different circumstances. The attorneys at Beauregard, Burke & Franco represent large agencies, districts, and businesses, and are equipped to advise employers of how to follow the new laws, as well as being able to advise employees whether their rights have been violated.