Employers operating under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law “safe harbor” should prepare to fully comply with the Law beginning January 1, 2016.

Background

The Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law became effective July 1, 2015. Under the Law, all employees who work primarily in Massachusetts are entitled to accrue and use up to 40 hours of sick time each year. Employers with at least 11 employees anywhere must provide this time on a paid basis to their Massachusetts employees. Employers with fewer than 11 employees anywhere must provide this time on an unpaid basis. The Earned Sick Leave Law also limits how and when an employer can seek documentation from employees taking sick leave and prevents employers from interfering or retaliating against employees for taking sick leave. (For additional details on the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law, see our articles, Massachusetts Voters Pass Mandatory Sick Time Law for All Employers, Effective July 1, 2015, Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law Update: Proposed Regulations Released by Attorney General’s Office, and Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law Update: Safe Harbor Clarified, Form Notice Available.)

Safe Harbor

Prior to the July 1, 2015, effective date, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office announced that employers with existing paid time off policies that met certain requirements could take advantage of a “safe harbor” to comply with the sick leave law through the end of 2015. Under the announced “safe harbor,” employers with paid time off (“PTO”) policies in effect as of May 1, 2015, that provided employees with at least 30 hours of paid time off in calendar year 2015, would be “deemed to be compliant” with the sick leave law for calendar year 2015. As of January 1, 2016, however, the “safe harbor” expires.

Next Steps

Many employers with existing sick leave, vacation, or PTO policies became compliant with the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law under the announced “safe harbor.” This temporary reprieve expires on December 31, 2015. As of January 1, 2016, all employers must have a sick leave or PTO policy that is fully compliant with the Law and its implementing regulations. Employers, therefore, would be well-served to review and update existing sick leave and PTO policies to ensure continued compliance.