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Up Close: MA's new Earned Sick Time Law

Posted by Amy B. Katz, Esq. on August 17, 2015 at 7:09 AM

Earned Sick Time Law

On July 1, 2015, the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law (“MESTL”) went into effect, requiring all private sector employers to provide all employees working primarily in Massachusetts with up to 40 hours of sick leave per benefit year. We strongly recommend that all employers with employees working in Massachusetts review their paid time off policies, as well as the handbooks and other documentation in which they reside, in order to ensure proper compliance. If an employer already has a sick leave or paid time off policy, they may continue to implement it, as long as employees are entitled to at least the same conditions and protections as provided in the MESTL. Finally, we advise employers to post a notice of the MESTL in a conspicuous location and provide a copy to their employees as soon as possible.

Below is a brief overview of the key elements of the MESTL, followed by several links to a more in-depth review of the law and its applicable regulations:

SCOPE - Employers with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick leave; while employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide unpaid sick leave. When calculating the number of employees, employers must count all employees, including full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees, regardless of whether they actually work in Massachusetts.

ELIGIBILITY - Employees are eligible for sick leave if Massachusetts is the employee’s “primary place of work,” even if the employee spends less than 50% time in MA, and even if the employer is headquartered or located outside of Massachusetts.

USES - Sick time under the MESTL may be used for the employee’s own illness or injury; to care for a child, parent or spouse with an illness or injury; to travel to and attend routine medical and dental appointment for employee or for child, parent or spouse; or to address psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence. An employer may require written documentation from a health care provider only in specific instances, such as if the sick leave exceeds 24 consecutively scheduled work hours or exceeds 3 consecutive days on which the employee is scheduled to work.

ACCRUAL – Employers must provide all employees with a minimum of one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, including overtime – up to a maximum of 40 hours per “calendar year,” as such consecutive 12-month period is defined by the employer. Employees may use earned sick time in hourly increments or in such smaller increments as the employer typically uses to account for absences or other use of time. However, if a replacement employee is required due to the employee’s absence, an employer may require the employee to use additional hours equal to the hours worked by the replacement.

FRONT-LOAD SICK TIME – Employers may elect to provide employees with a lump sum of 40 hours or more of paid sick leave or paid time off at the beginning of the benefit year (rather than accruing sick leave over time), and in doing so, the employer does not need to track accrual or allow rollover to the following year, provided such leave is otherwise consistent with MESTL.

Additional information on this topic may be found by clicking the following links:
In-depth review of the MESTL
Final Regulations 
Employee Notice
Safe Harbor Notice issued by the MA Office of the Attorney General

As always, feel free contact a member of our employment law team if you have any questions or would like assistance reviewing your employee policies or handbooks: Amy KatzJackie Piscitello and Christine Zebrowski



Topics: Employment Law

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