As of July 1, 2015, Massachusetts has a law on the books that requires employers to provide employees with up to 40 hours of sick time per year. This law, called the Massachusetts Sick Time Law, applies to all private employers and allows all employees who perform services for an employer for wages, remuneration, or other compensation to earn sick time. Essentially, all workers in Massachusetts are entitled the provisions of the new law, even if they are temporary or part-time help. When and how much sick time employees can take depends on certain factors, which are discussed below.
Reasons For Sick Time Use
Employees who work at an employer that has 11 or more employees will have 40 hours of unpaid sick time each calendar year. Employees will be able to use sick time and miss work for reasons such as (1) caring for their child, spouse, or parent who has a physical or mental illness, (2) to handle their own illness, (3) to attend a routine medical appointment for themselves or a family member, or (4) to deal with the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence.
Earning Sick Time
Employees do not receive a certain amount of sick time hours at the start of each calendar year. Instead, most employees will earn and accrue one hour of sick time for each 30 hours working, up to 40 hours per year. The law, however, indicates that if an employer already provides paid sick time to its employees, the new law does not require an employer to provide additional time off so long as the existing policy allows employees to take time off for the same reasons outlined in the new law.
Paid or Unpaid?
Employees who work for an employer with 11 or more employees are entitled to use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Employers with fewer than 11 employees are entitled to use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time each calendar year. When determining the number of employees, the employer must count part-time, full-time, and temporary employees.
Using Sick Time
Employees are not required to use sick time in full day increments. The law states that employees can use earned sick time in either the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for the absences or other time off from work. For example, if an employee needs time off to attend a medical appointment he could leave work an hour early and use one hour of accrued sick leave. The employee would not need to take off a full or half day.
Carrying Over Unused Sick Time
The new law has rules about carrying over unused sick time from one year to the next. In short, employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused earned sick time from one calendar year to the next, however, employees are not entitled to use more than 40 hours of sick time per calendar year. When an employee leaves his or her job voluntarily or is fired, unlike accrued vacation time, an employer is not required to compensate an employee for accrued but unused sick leave.
Importantly, the new sick law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who uses sick time or supports a co-worker for doing so. That means an employer cannot fire or demote an employee for using sick time under the new law.
The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General will enforce the New Sick Leave Law. Employees, however, may also file a lawsuit in court to enforce their rights under the new law. If an employee prevails in a lawsuit, he or she may be entitled to treble damages and attorney fees. Also, if employers are found to violate the sick leave law, they may be hit with civil financial penalties.
If you would like to discuss the New Sick Leave Law with an employment law attorney, please contact Keches Law Group today. Call our toll-free at 617-898-0808, or visit us online for a free consultation.