By Attorney Tara Swartz

On July 1, 2015, the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Act, M.G.L. c. 149 § 148C, went into effect. The Act provides that all employees with a primary place of work in Massachusetts can earn and take up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year.

Employers who have 11 more employees must provide paid sick leave. The pay must be at the employee’s then regular hourly rate and must be paid in the payroll cycle when the leave was taken. Smaller employers are not required to provide paid leave but they must still provide the time off. All employees, whether they work in or outside Massachusetts, and are full time, part time or temporary count towards the total employee number.

Employees accrue earned sick time at a minimum rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours of work, including overtime. Earned sick time accrues from the first day of employment with employees able to use it 90 days after the first day of work regardless of the number of days they worked in that period.

Circumstances where employees may use their earned sick time include: 1) caring for a mental or physical illness, injury or medical condition of the employee, the employee’s child, spouse, parents or in-laws, 2) attending routine medical appointments for the employee, the employee’s child, spouse, parents or in-laws, and 3) to address the effects of domestic violence for the employee or their dependent child.

If an employee takes more than 24 consecutive hours of sick time, the employer has the right to request certification from medical personnel. Employees who anticipate taking sick time should notify their employer when possible but employers cannot request any details on the nature of an illness, a domestic violence incident or any other matters where the employee used sick time.

Employees with unused earned sick time can carry over up to 40 hours to the next calendar year but cannot use more than 40 hours in one calendar year. Employers do not have to pay unused sick time at the end of employment.

Employers are prohibited from interfering or retaliating against an employee for their exercise or use of earned sick time rights or for supporting another employee’s exercise or use of such rights. These rights are enforced by the same scheme and procedures applicable to other state wage laws. Employees may file suits in court to enforce their earned sick time rights and for violations and may recover treble damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Employers can be subject to civil penalties up to $25,000 per violation.

For more information about the Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law and how it applies to you contact Attorney Tara Swartz online or by calling 617-871-1500.