On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts joined the growing list of states to guarantee paid sick leave for employees. According to the new law (a ballot question passed by voters), employees may use earned sick leave to care for a physical or mental illness, to care for sick family members, to attend medical appointments, or to address the physical or legal effects of domestic violence (this is in addition to Massachusetts’ new domestic violence leave law).

Relevant Provisions of the New Law:

  • Beginning on July 1, 2015, employers with more than 11 employees must provide paid sick leave for all employees, including part-time employees.
  • Leave must accrue at a minimum rate of one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked. Accrual must commence immediately upon an employee’s hire, but employers may prohibit new hires from using accrued time until they have worked for 90 days.
  • Employers may limit annual accrual to 40 hours. Although employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused time into the next year, employers may still limit employees to using only 40 hours of leave per year. Employers are not required to pay out unused sick time at an employee’s termination.
  • Employers may not require that an employee present a doctor’s note or health care provider certification unless an employee uses sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. Moreover, employers may not delay the taking of sick leave, or the payment for the time taken, merely because they have not yet received a requested certification.
  • Employers may ask employees to make a good faith effort to give advance notice if use of earned sick time is foreseeable.
  • The Attorney General will soon release a posting that explains employees’ rights under the law. When the posting becomes available, employers must post the notice in a conspicuous location, and must provide each employee with a copy.

Recommended Action:

  • Employers should review their current sick leave policies and practices and update them to comport with the requirements of the new law.  Preexisting benefit plans (such as paid time off, vacation, or personal time allowances) can satisfy the requirements of the new law. However, employers should confirm with counsel that these plans are in compliance, because the requirements of the new law may be more expansive than existing policies.
  • Employers should ensure a system is in place to track and calculate accrued and used sick time, and should also provide training for supervisory and managerial employees on the new mandates.

To date, the Attorney General’s office has not yet issued interpretive guidance, nor made available the required posting. Thus, Massachusetts employers should consult with counsel to ensure that their current policies are in compliance, and should continue to seek counsel as more guidance and regulations become available.