On June 10, 2015, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) issued two important new documents for employers concerning implementation of the new earned sick time law that goes into effect on July 1, 2015. The AGO has held public hearings and listening sessions concerning the proposed regulations it issued in April, and has stated that the final regulations will be issued in mid-June of 2015. (AGO representatives targeted June 19, 2015 as the date for issuance of final regulations.) On June 10, the AGO issued two documents that will assist employers in preparing to implement the law.
Revised “Safe Harbor”
The AGO issued a revised version of the “safe harbor” language that it first announced on May 18, 2015. The new “safe harbor” language provides that an employer may delay full implementation of all the requirements of the new earned sick time law and regulations until January 1, 2016 if the following requirements are met:
- The employer had a paid time off / paid sick leave policy in existence as of May 1, 2015.
- That paid time off policy provides full-time employees the right to earn and use at least 30 hours of paid time off or sick leave during the 2015 calendar year.
- On and after July 1, 2015, any employees not previously covered by the paid time off policy are either (a) allowed to accrue paid time off under the policy at the same rate as full-time employees (if the policy is an accrual policy) or (b) given a prorated lump sum allocation based on the lump sum of paid time off provided to full-time employees covered by the policy (if the policy provides a lump sum allocation of paid time off to full-time employees).
- Appropriate “prorated” lump sum allocations may “where lump sums of paid time off are provided annually, be halved for employees who receive coverage as of July 1, 2015, and proportionately reduced for employees hired after July 1, 2015; and/or be proportionate for part-time employees.”
- For employees compensated on neither a salaried nor hourly basis, the employee must either accrue or receive a lump sum based on a reasonable approximation of hours worked.
- Up to 30 hours or the lesser amount provided to an employee in compliance with the safe harbor provisions must be (a) job protected and subject to the earned sick time law’s non-retaliation provisions, (b) available for any of the purposes for which the law permits employees to take leave, and (c) if unused during 2015, available to the employee after January 1, 2016.
If an employer meets all of these requirements, the employer may continue to administer the paid time off policy it had in place as of May 1, 2015. All employers that choose to operate under this safe harbor must adjust their policies to come into full compliance with the earned sick time law and regulations by January 1, 2016.
Employers may wish to review—or review again—their existing paid time off policies to determine if they will comply with this revised safe harbor guidance.
The earned sick time law requires that employers post, in a conspicuous location, a notice created by the AGO concerning the earned sick time law. The proposed regulations would expand on this notice requirement by requiring that employers post the notice in all locations where employees covered by the law work and provide a copy of the notice to their employees. The notice was issued on June 10, 2015 by the AGO.