On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question enacting M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C, which entitles Massachusetts employees to earn and use sick time. Massachusetts is now the third state in the nation to guarantee paid sick days for certain workers.
The law provides that employees who work for public or private employers having eleven or more employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. The sick time must be compensated at the same hourly rate paid to the employee when the sick time is used. Employees who work for employers with less than eleven employees can earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.
Under the law, employees earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees begin accruing sick hours on either (a) the date of hire; or (b) July 1, 2015, whichever is later.
Employees may begin to use earned sick time on the 90th day after hire. After the 90 day period, employees may use earned sick time as it accrues. Employees can only use earned sick time and miss work in order 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;
- Attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or
- Address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child.
In certain circumstances, employers may require employees to provide certification of the need for sick time.
If an employee does not use all of their sick time in a calendar year, the employee may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year. Employees who carry over earned sick time, however, may only use up to 40 hours of sick time in a calendar year. Employers are not required to pay an employee for unused sick time at the end of the employee’s employment.
It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under the new law. For example, employers may not use the taking of earned sick time as a negative factor in any employment action such as an evaluation, promotion, disciplinary action or termination, or otherwise subject an employee to discipline for use of earned sick time under the law.
In light of this change in the law, employers are advised to review and update, as necessary, their sick time, vacation and/or paid time off policies.