On November 4, 2014, voters in Massachusetts passed a ballot initiative that entitles employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time. Massachusetts now joins Connecticut and California as the states with mandatory sick leave laws. The Massachusetts ballot measure, which will take effect on July 1, 2015, provides that employees who work for employers having 11 or more employees may earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Employees working for employers with 10 or fewer employees may earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.

Employee Use of Sick Time

An employee may use earned sick time to miss work as follows:

  1. to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee's child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse;
  2. to attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee's child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or
  3. to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee's dependent child.

Sick Time Accruals

Employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, and they can begin to use earned sick time on the 90th day after hire. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year, but they may not use more than 40 hours in a calendar year. Employers need not pay employees for unused sick time upon the employee's separation from employment.

Limitations

Employers may require certification of the need for sick time if an employee used sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. However, employers may not delay the taking of or payment for earned sick time because they have not received such certification. Employees also have to make a good faith effort to notify the employer in advance if the need for earned sick time is foreseeable.

No Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from interfering with or retaliating against an employee based on that employee's exercise of earned sick time rights, as well as from retaliating based on an employee's support of another employee's exercise of such rights.

Enforcement and a Private Right of Action

The new law will be enforced by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The law also provides employees with a private right of action to file suits in court to enforce their earned sick time rights.

What This Means for Employers

Massachusetts is the latest state to enact sick leave legislation. Massachusetts employers may want to review their policies related to sick leave, vacation and paid time off to ensure compliance with this new statute prior to its effective date.