On November 4, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 4, which requires employers to provide employees with sick time benefits. The law amends Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws by adding two sections: 148C and 148D.
The new law takes effect on July 1, 2015, and requires employers to provide employees with 40 hours of sick time per year. For employers with eleven or more employees, employees must be paid for their sick time. Employers must allow employees to use the sick time to: (1) care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent who is suffering from a physical or mental illness; (2) care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness; (3) attend routine medical appointments for his or her self, child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent; and (4) address the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence.
Employees must be allowed to accrue at least one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked, and they must begin accruing sick time on the date of hire. An employee may begin using the accrued sick time on the 90th calendar day after the commencement of his or her employment, and after the 90th day, he or she may use the time as it is accrued. Employees may carry-over up to 40 hours of sick time to the next calendar year, but employees may not use more than 40 hours of sick time per year. These requirements only set a floor with which employers must comply—an employer is permitted to offer more sick time, offer it at a faster rate of accrual, allow employees to carry over more hours to the next calendar year, etc.
If employees use sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours, employers may require the employee to provide a doctor’s note. The law provides that the employer may not, however, delay the employee’s taking of earned sick time or delay an employee’s pay because it has not yet received a doctor’s note.
Employers already providing employees with paid time off in an amount that is sufficient to meet the accrual requirements discussed above are not required to provide additional paid sick time if the employees may use that paid time off for sick leave.
In addition to requiring compliance with the above requirements, the law provides that employers may not interfere with or retaliate against an employee or his or her use of sick time. The Massachusetts Attorney General is responsible for enforcing the law, using the same procedures and mechanisms as are in place for other wage laws in Massachusetts.