Massachusetts Enacts Paid Sick Leave for 2015. On Nov. 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure to provide earned paid sick leave to employees. Question 4, known as the Massachusetts Paid Sick Days Initiative, passed by a 60 to 40 percent margin.
The mandate will take effect on July 1, 2015:
- Massachusetts voters approved Question 4, a ballot measure providing paid sick leave to employees in certain circumstances.
- This new earned sick time law takes effect on July 1, 2015, and covers all employers.
The law mandates that sick leave be provided as follows:
- Employers with 11 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid leave per year.
- Employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid leave per year.
Who Is Affected?
In general, all employers in Massachusetts will be required to comply with this new earned sick time law. However, the mandate requiring paid leave only applies to employers with 11 or more employees. Under this new law:
- Employers with 11 or more employees must allow all employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.
- Employers with fewer than 11 employees must allow all employees to earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per calendar year.
Employers may adopt or continue earned sick time policies that are more generous than the new earned sick time law. Also, employers must continue to comply with existing collective bargaining agreements or contracts that have more generous leave provisions.
How Is Leave Time Earned?
Under the law, employees earn a minimum of one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, starting July 1, 2015, up to a maximum of 40 hours per calendar year. However, employers may restrict the use of accrued sick leave for the first 90 days of employment.
Employees must be permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of earned but unused sick leave into the next calendar year. However, the law does not require employers to allow employees to use more than 40 hours in a calendar year.
What Can Leave Be Used For?
An employee may use earned and accrued sick leave, whether paid or unpaid, to:
- Care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or his or her child, spouse, parent or parent-in-law;
- Attend routine medical appointments of the employee or his or her child, spouse, parent or parent-in-law; or
- Address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or his or her dependent child.
- Notice and Certification Requirements
- When possible, and when the need for leave is foreseeable, the law requires employees to make a good faith effort to provide advance notice of leave to their employer.
- In addition, employers may require medical documentation or certification for the need to use earned sick leave if the employee is absent for more than 24 consecutive work hours. However, an employer may not delay or deny sick leave if this certification is not received.
- Employee Protections
- The new sick time law prohibits an employer from interfering with an employee’s right to use earned sick leave. Employers also cannot retaliate against any employees who request to use earned sick leave.
- Employer Obligations
- Employers in Massachusetts should begin reviewing policies already in place in order to determine if implementation of an earned sick leave policy is necessary. Employers who currently provide paid time off under a PTO, vacation or other paid leave policy (that allows at least 40 hours of leave per year for the purposes covered under the law) do not need to provide additional sick leave to employees.
The new earned sick time law does not require earned but unused sick leave hours to be paid out to the employee at termination of employment. However, certain earned but unused vacation or other paid time off may have to be paid out at termination of employment. Therefore, employers may want to consider providing the new mandated sick leave under a separate policy, rather than lumping all leave time under one policy.