Six-Month Transition Period to Comply With Earned Sick Leave Law Allowed For Businesses That Offer Sick Time

SPRINGFIELD, WORCESTER, Mass., WATERBURY, Conn. – As a leading labor and employment law firm serving the greater Springfield area, Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. understands the complexities of the Earned Sick Leave Law passed by voters in November 2014 and new “safe harbor” provision for employers, which was recently announced by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

The Earned Sick Leave Law, which goes into effect July 1, entitles employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year if they work for businesses with 11 or more employees. Businesses with fewer than 11 employees must still provide up to 40 hours of annual sick leave, but it can be unpaid. According to a new provision announced by Healey, employers that already offer paid sick time to their employees will have until the end of the year to adjust their policies and comply with the new law.

“Employers who do not comply with the new law risk civil sanctions and lawsuits from wrongfully disciplined or terminated employees,” said Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. Attorney John S. Gannon. “The new provision announced by the attorney general gives businesses that already offer earned sick time to their employees more time to comply without risk of legal action.”

According to Healey’s “safe harbor” provision, employers with a policy that exists as of May 1 that provides at least 30 hours of paid time off to employees for the 2015 calendar year will be in compliance with the law through Jan. 1, 2016.

“These businesses do not need to worry about providing additional paid leave or developing an accrual system under the Earned Sick Leave Law for the employees who are covered under their paid time off policy until the beginning of next year,” Gannon said. “However, employers cannot retaliate against or otherwise interfere with an employee who requests and/or uses available paid time off after July 1. Employer policies that were permissible before July 1 – including policies related to attendance, occurrences, notice protocol and holiday pay – may still need to be changed prior to the law’s effective date.”

If employees are not currently covered by a paid time off plan, employers can amend their policies to offer 30 hours of paid time off to employees who do not currently qualify for paid leave, or they can comply with the new law by beginning accrual for other workers at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, beginning July 1.

Business owners seeking assistance in understanding or complying with the Earned Sick Leave Law or “safe harbor” provision may contact the employment law attorneys at Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C. For information, visit skoler-abbott.com or call 413-737-4753.

John S. Gannon joined Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C.’s Springfield office in 2011 after serving as a judicial clerk to The Honorable David M. Borden and George D. Stoughton at the Connecticut Appellate Court. He defends employers against discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful termination, and related claims. In addition, he conducts comprehensive workforce wage and hour audits and reviews workplace policies for compliance with state and federal employment laws.
Prior to law school, John had a career in advertising and marketing. He is a regular contributor to business publications and the Massachusetts Employment Law Letter, and a frequent speaker on employment-related legal topics.