Attorney General Announces “Safe Harbor” for Compliance with New Earned Sick Time Law

As we’re sure you’re aware, the implementation date for the new Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law is July 1, 2015. We previously discussed the law and proposed regulations here and here.

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announced a “safe harbor” provision that will give some employers until January 1, 2016, to fully comply with the law. Employers with a policy in place as of May 1, 2015, that provides at least 30 hours of paid time off (“PTO”) to employees for the 2015 calendar year are protected by the “safe harbor.” These businesses do not need to worry about providing additional paid leave or developing an accrual system under the Earned Sick Time Law for the employees who are covered under their PTO policy until the beginning of next year. However, employers cannot retaliate against or otherwise interfere with an employee who requests and/or uses available PTO after July 1, 2015. This means that many employer policies that were permissible before July 1, including policies related to attendance, occurrences, notice protocol, and holiday pay, for example, may still need to be changed prior to the law’s effective date. The full announcement from the Attorney General’s Office can be found here.

Notwithstanding the Attorney General’s “safe harbor,” employers still have an obligation to provide 30 hours of PTO to all workers, including part-time, temporary, and per diem staff. If these employees are not currently covered by the employer’s PTO program, the employer has two options. These employers can either amend their policy and offer 30 PTO hours to employees who do not currently qualify for paid leave, or they can simply comply with the new law by beginning accrual for these other workers at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, beginning July 1. The latter approach may be more practical for employers with lots of part-time and/or per diem workers who would not otherwise accrue 30 hours of Earned Sick Time between July 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015.

Remember, employers who do not comply with the new law risk civil sanctions and lawsuits from wrongfully disciplined or terminated employees. If you need assistance reviewing and revising policies or drafting an Earned Sick Time policy for use on July 1, contact any of the labor and employment attorneys at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.

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