The Law @ Work

Massachusetts Voters Approve Paid Sick Leave Law

by Kimberly A. Klimczuk

The election results are in.  Massachusetts voters have approved a law that requires certain employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.  The law takes effect July 1, 2015.

The law requires Massachusetts employers with at least eleven employees to provide paid sick leave to employees.  Under the law, employees will accrue paid sick leave beginning on July 1, 2015, at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.  Although employees will begin accruing paid sick leave on July 1, 2015, employees are not eligible to take the paid leave unless and until they have worked for the employer for 90 days.  Employers with fewer than eleven employees must allow employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.

Employers must allow employees to use the earned sick leave in one-hour increments, or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time, whichever is smaller.  Under the law, employees must be allowed to carry over up to 40 hours of accrued sick leave from one year to the next, but employees are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of accrued leave in any calendar year.  Employees are entitled to take leave for the employee’s own illness, injury, or health condition, or the illness, injury, or health condition of a child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law.  Employees also may take paid leave to attend routine medical appointments for themselves or for their child, spouse, parent, or parent-in-law, as well as to address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence.  If an employee uses earned sick time for more than 24 consecutively-scheduled work hours, employers may require certification from an employee’s health care provider verifying the need for leave.

The law prohibits retaliation against any employee for requesting or using earned sick leave, for opposing practices he or she believes to be in violation of the law, or for supporting a coworker’s exercise of rights under the law.

Employers will be required to provide to all employees a copy of a special notice of the law and its requirements that will be prepared by the attorney general.  Employers also must include this notice in a conspicuous place accessible to all employees, such as with your other employment posters.

The good news is that employers who already provide at least 40 hours of paid leave per year in the form of vacation, paid time off (PTO), or other paid leave do not have to provide additional leave to comply with the law, as long as employees may take that leave for purposes related to sick leave or domestic violence.

The attorney general is expected to issue regulations to address certain areas not completely resolved by the text of the statute, such as requiring certification from an employee who does not have a health care provider and how employer size will be determined – for example, will an employer be deemed to have eleven or more employees if it has at least eleven employees at any point in a calendar year, or will there be some period of time over which the number of employees will be calculated.

If you have any questions or concerns about this new law and its requirements, feel free to comment below.

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