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Earned Sick Time for Massachusetts Employees

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Employees in the Commonwealth will soon be legally entitled to up to 40 hours of earned sick time per year, thanks to Massachusetts voters. Starting next summer, employees will be able to earn and use sick time to: a) care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; b) care for a child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse with a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; c) attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or d) address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child. The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2015.

Here’s what employees need to know about their right to earned sick time:

  • Current employees will begin earning one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked starting July 1, 2015. New employees hired after July 1, 2015 will begin earning one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked starting on the date of their hire, and will be able to start using their earned sick time 90 days after their hire. Employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year.
  • Employees who work for companies with 11 employees or more will be entitled to earned sick time that is paid. Employees of companies with less than 11 employees will be entitled to earned sick time that is unpaid. Paid sick time will be compensated at the same rate as the employee’s normal work day.
  • Employees can use a maximum of 40 hours of earned sick time per calendar year.
  • Employees may carry over unused earned sick time to the following year. However, they are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of earned sick time in one calendar year.
  • Employees will be expected to give their employer good faith notice of their intent to use earned sick time when it is foreseeable. If an employee uses more than 24 consecutive work hours of earned sick time, an employer may require reasonable documentation from the employee’s health care provider. Employers cannot require that an employee find a replacement to cover his or her hours while the employee is out using earned sick time.
  • Employers are not required to pay employees for unused or accrued sick time at the end of their employment.
  • Employees who are exempt from federal overtime requirements, such as salaried employees working in executive or administrative positions, will be assumed to work 40 hours per work week for purposes of earned sick time accrual unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours (in which case they will earn sick time based on the amount of hours in their normal work week).
  • While the new law sets forth minimum requirements that employers must comply with, it does leave some room for flexibility. An employer and employee can together decide not use an earned paid sick day when an employee has to miss work for a qualifying reason; however, the decision must be mutual. If both agree that employee will make up her missed hours or shifts in the current or next pay period, the employer will not be required to pay the employee for the day she is absent and the employee will not be required to use her accrued sick time for her absence. However, the employer cannot require the employee to work additional hours to make up for time she was absent and entitled to use earned sick time towards.

    Further, employers remain free to offer employees earned sick time benefits that are more generous than the law’s minimum requirements, such as by allowing sick time to accrue at a faster rate, or the permitting employees to use their earned sick time at an earlier date. The law makes clear that employers should not be discouraged from adopting or continuing to use current earned sick time policies in place that comply with and/or go above and beyond what employees are legally entitled to. The new law will not excuse employers of any current obligations under benefit plans with provisions more generous than those provided by the law. Employers who already have policies in place that comply with the minimum requirements of the law will not also be required to give employees earned paid sick time in addition to those existing policies.

    Earned sick time laws will be regulated and enforced by the Attorney General’s office. Employers are prohibited from interfering with or retaliating against an employee for exercising his or her right to earned sick time, or supporting another employee in his or her use of earned sick time.

    The new law makes Massachusetts the third state in the country to guarantee paid sick time for workers, following Connecticut and California.

    The employment lawyers at KJC Law Firm handle cases for clients all across the state of Massachusetts. Our lawyers have more than 60 years of experience litigating cases and bring our years of insight to every case we take on. We have the resources to investigate your claim, hire necessary experts, and get you the compensation that you deserve.