Massachusetts Sick Leave Law Gives Employees More Rights, but Raises Questions
As many people know, in November 2014 Massachusetts passed a new sick time law that goes into effect on July 1, 2015.
The law allows all employees in Massachusetts to accrue sick time at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of up to 40 hours earned per year. For exempt (salary) employees, one week of work is treated as 40 hours worked for purposes of accruing sick time.
For employers with 11 or more employees, sick time must be paid. For employers with less than 11 employees, sick time may be unpaid.
Employees are not entitled to use their sick time until they have been with the employer for 90 days.
What can sick time be used for? The statute is broad and encompasses caring for a sick family member, for oneself, for doctor appointments, or for effects related to domestic violence.
The hours may be used incrementally. For instance, if an employee needs to take two hours off in the morning to attend a doctor’s appointment, she can use those two hours without sacrificing a full day off.
Some issues are unclear, such as the interaction of “sick time” with paid time off, or “PTO time.” Most who have reviewed the issue are of the opinion that so long as the employer provides PTO time, employees do not get an additional 40 hours of sick time.
Sick time can be carried over, to a certain extent. 40 hours of unused sick time can be carried over to the next year, although employers may prohibit employees from using more than 40 hours of sick time within one year.
Finally, if an employee quits or is fired with unused sick time, the employer does not have to pay the value of the time to the employee. Generally, however, an employer is required to pay an employee her final paycheck with all amounts owed or due to them on their last day.
The law does leave a number of unanswered questions that will probably be filled in by regulations from the Massachusetts Attorney General or by judges, such as whether employees outside Massachusetts count toward the total number of employees, what records employers will have to keep, and how breaks in service will be handled.
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