The Law @ Work

Will Voters Decide Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Questions? Maybe.

Last week Attorney General Martha Coakley approved 28 proposed ballot questions, including a minimum wage hike and a paid sick leave law.  The ballot question proposes to raise the state minimum wage, one of the highest in the country, from $8.00 an hour to $10.50 per hour.  The earned sick leave question seeks to guarantee 40 hours of earned sick leave per year for employees of Massachusetts.

Attorney General Coakley’s approval does not guarantee that you will see a minimum wage increase question or a question for earned paid sick leave on the ballot.  Proponents of each question must now obtain and file the signatures of 68,911 registered voters by December 4, 2013.  The proposals will then be forwarded to the state Legislature to enact before the first Wednesday in May 2013.  If the Legislature fails to do so, proponents must gather another 11,485 signatures by July in order to appear as a question on the November 2014 ballot.

In the meantime, the state Legislature may take these questions into its own hands and there may be no need for the ballot questions.  In June 2013, the state legislature held a hearing regarding House Bill No. 1701, seeking an increase in the minimum wage.  The Bill’s proposal seeks to gradually raise the minimum wage from $8.00 to $11.00 per hour; a proposal more generous than the proposed ballot question.

Similarly, on September 24, 2013, the state Legislature is slated to hold a hearing regarding House Bill No. 1739, which proposes an earned paid sick time law for Massachusetts employees/employers.  Under the proposed law, Massachusetts employees would accrue earned paid sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, commencing on the date of hire.  Exempt employees will be assumed to work 40 hours in each work week for purposes of the accrual unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours.  Employers with six to ten employees will not be required to provide more than 40 hours of earned paid sick time per year per employee, while employers with more than 10 employees will not be required to provide more than 56 hours of earned paid sick time per year per employee. Employers with fewer than 6 employees would not have to provide paid sick leave at all, but, however, would be required to provide a minimum of 40 hours of earned unpaid sick time per calendar year.  Sick leave provided under the statute could be used by employees to cover various illnesses and conditions.

If passed, these proposed questions or bills will impact employers state-wide in a number of ways and are therefore important topics for employers to watch.  As always, stay tuned for future updates on these and other important developments in labor and employment law.

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