The New Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law

A few weeks ago, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office issued final regulations for the new Earned Sick Time Law, setting the deadline for compliance for qualifying employers.

The Earned Sick Time Law applies to employers in Massachusetts with at least 11 employees — this includes part-time, temporary, and seasonal employees — in any 20 total weeks or 16 consecutive weeks during the company’s calendar year. Employers are required to give all employees, after a 90-day trial period after the commencement of employment, one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. If the employee works for the company both within and outside of Massachusetts, the employee’s total hours working in all locations must be counted.

Up to 40 hours may be earned by the employee in a calendar year — the employer is required to inform the employee upon starting employment what the “calendar year” of the employer will be. Exempt full-time employees are considered to have worked 40 hours in a week, while exempt part-time employees are considered to have worked the hours they were scheduled.

Employers are required to keep track of the accrual and use of paid sick time. They may only require medical verification from the employee only after the employee has used paid sick time for at least 24 consecutively scheduled work hours (so for example, if an employee is scheduled for 8-hour daily shifts Monday through Friday, and the employee take Monday through Wednesday off, the employer can require medical verification; however, if the employee takes Monday and Tuesday, returns to work Wednesday, then takes Thursday off, the employer cannot require medical verification).

Employees may used paid sick time for their own illness (this includes to address the effects of domestic violence), or to care for an ill family member, or to attend the employee’s or a family member’s medical appointment.

Finally, employers are not required to pay out unused paid sick leave upon the employee’s termination, but must include notice of this in its earned sick time policy.

Employers who believe they may be subject to the Earned Sick Time Law, or who already have an existing paid sick time policy, should review their policies to determine whether they are required to comply with the new law. Once policies are put in place, they should be examined to ensure that they are in compliance with the Law’s standards, as well as in compliance with other medical leave policies the employer may be subject to, such as the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

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