Career Advice

Sick Time Laws/Rights in Massachusetts

By: Aidan Smith
Aug 23, 2021 • 6 min read

Sick Time Laws/Rights in Massachusetts – What You Need to Know.

If you are entering the job market for the first time in Massachusetts or just need a refresher on your sick time rights as an employee, you’ve come to the right place! Here at JobGet, we’ve gone through all the legalese to provide you with an easy-to-understand guide with quotes and explanations.

With this guide, you’ll know where to look and what to keep in mind about your sick time rights as an employee. We’ll be pointing out the key facts you need to know, so you are prepared to take advantage of your rights. We will also be providing an explanation of what all these laws mean for you and how they will benefit you once you get a job.

Where to Find Information on your Sick Time Rights

For the best source of information about sick time rights/laws in Massachusetts, go to Mass.gov. On this webpage are a number of important links to key information, especially with necessary information on the Covid-19 Pandemic.

On the webpage is a link for a new webpage. This webpage has information about the current Massachusetts policies and laws regarding sick time rights in the pandemic. In addition to the webpage link concerning the Covid-19 Pandemic, there is a link to a public document that goes over the normal Massachusetts sick time laws. This public document is an abridged version of the actual sick time laws document and is intended for public use.

In addition to these vital sources of information, you can also find a sample document of the Massachusetts sick time policy to download. This is ideal for both employees and employers as a reference guide. For employers, there is also a sick time verification form for download. This is useful for your company records and keeps your company operations around sick time in line with Massachusetts sick time laws.

sick time Massachusetts Law

What Does the Public Document Say?

You may wonder what all of this information actually says. You don’t have to worry about reading through the legalese yourself. Here is a general outline of the abridged public document.

The first three pages of the document and most of the fourth contain vital introductory information. This information is key for the legality of the document and the laws it represents. It also provides explanations for important terms found in the legal text.

You may already be familiar with some of these terms. These terms include Employee, Employer, Child, Domestic Violence, and Health Care Provider. The descriptions for each of these terms are designed to be as broad and encompassing as possible. The broadness of these descriptions is to ensure that the law provides legal protection for the most amount of people possible.

Moving past the introductory information and important term descriptions are the laws themselves. Here are some of the key laws quoted from the text for your convenience, coupled with explanations.

Quotes from the Public Documents With Simple Explanations

Employees Eligible to Accrue and Use Earned Sick Time

“(1) An employee is eligible to accrue and use earned sick time if the employee’s primary place of work is in Massachusetts regardless of the location of the employer. An employee need not spend 50% or more time working in Massachusetts for a single employer for Massachusetts to be the employee’s primary place of work.”

Explanation: As long as your primary place of work is in Massachusetts, you can get sick time for your work. Sick time spent for work can be for multiple employers, regardless of where they operate from. If your work requires you to work in another state, you will still accumulate the total sick time for all hours worked. This is the case only if Massachusetts remains your primary place of work.

Accrual of Earned Sick Time

“(4) Employees accrue earned sick time on all hours worked at a rate of one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked, including overtime hours, up to a cap of 40 hours per benefit year.

(5) Employees accrue earned sick time only on hours worked, not on hours paid when not working. For example, employees do not accrue earned sick time during vacation, paid time off, or while using earned sick time.”

Explanation: You will only get sick time for hours you work. The accrual rate is limited to one hour of sick time per thirty hours of work. The legally required cap for sick time in Massachusetts for all companies is forty total hours of earned sick time for each year for each employee. Certain companies may have policies for more sick time allowance than the forty-hour cap.

sick time Massachusetts Law

Use of Earned Sick Time

“(12) Employees have the right to use 40 hours of earned sick time per benefit year if the employee works sufficient hours to earn the time.

(13) An employee may not use earned sick time if the employee is not scheduled to be at work during the period of use.

(14) The smallest amount of sick time an employee can use is one hour. For uses beyond one hour, employees may use earned sick time in hourly increments or in the smallest increment the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time.”

Explanation: As long as you have the earned time, you have the right to use your sick time. You can only use it to cover shifts you have to work, not days you have off from work. The minimum amount of sick time you can use is one hour. For sick times longer than an hour, you may use the smallest increment of time tracked by your employer. For example, your employer may track sick time in fifteen-minute or half-hour intervals.

Payment of Earned Sick Time

“(25) Earned paid sick time is paid at the same hourly rate listed in 940 CMR 33.02: Same Hourly Rate.

(26) When used, earned paid sick time must be paid on the same schedule as regular wages are paid. Employers may not delay compensating employees for earned paid sick time.”

Explanation: Your earned sick time payment is the same as your regular hourly payment or salaried payment divided into an hourly rate. It will always be paid on the same payment schedule as your regular payments.

90-Day Vesting Period

“(29) Employees begin accruing earned sick time on the first date of actual work and may begin to use any accrued earned sick time 90 days following their first dates of actual work, regardless of the number of days worked during the 90-day period.”

Explanation: You will begin to earn sick time from the first day you begin actual work. After ninety days, you can use your earned sick time. Please be aware that this is ninety calendar days, not standard business days. Standard business days are the days of Monday through Friday. Calendar days are the days of Sunday through Saturday.

Break-in Service

“(31) Following a break in service of up to four months, an employee shall maintain the right to use any unused earned sick time accrued before the pause in service.

(32) Following a break in service of between four and 12 months, an employee shall maintain the right to use earned sick time accrued before the break in service if the employee’s unused bank of earned sick time equals or exceeds ten hours. . .”

“(33) Following a break in service of up to 12 months, employees maintain their vesting days from the employer and do not need to restart the 90-day vesting period.”

Explanation: If you need to temporarily leave work for any period of time, you will still have the right to use any earned sick time up to the point you left work. As long as it is more than ten hours of earned sick time, you will be able to use it. You will maintain your vesting days. So, you do not need to wait ninety more days once you start working for your employer again. This is only the case if your absence is less than 12 months or one year. A good example of this in action would be seasonal work for an employer while you are on break between college semesters.

sick time Massachusetts Law

Transition Year

“(34) Employees shall begin to accrue earned sick time beginning on July 1, 2015, and shall be eligible to use their earned sick time 90 days after their first date of actual work, should a qualifying need arise.”

Explanation: This is an important detail as it regards to the change in Massachusett’s sick time laws. This was implemented six years ago, yet it is important to keep in mind in case another transition year happens in the future. The same policy around the ninety date waiting period would take effect in that sort of situation.

33.08: Prohibition on Retaliation and Non-interference

“(1) It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under or in connection with 940 CMR 33.08, including, but not limited to, using the taking of earned sick time under M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C, as a negative factor in any employment action such as evaluation, promotion, disciplinary action, or termination, or otherwise subjecting an employee to discipline for the use of earned sick time under M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C.”

Explanation: Your employer is forbidden from retaliating against you for using your earned sick time in any way, shape, or form. You are allowed to use your earned sick time as you see fit under the fullest protections of the law.

Massachusetts Covid-19 Pandemic Sick Time Rights Addendum

As mentioned earlier, the current Covid-19 pandemic has caused Massachusetts to update its sick time laws. This is a temporary addendum, expected to last as long as the pandemic. Please see the following two important law summaries from the government webpage about how your sick time rights have been changed due to this addendum.

Reasons for Leave

“Massachusetts employers are required to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work for the following COVID-19-related reasons:

  1. an employee’s need to:
    1. self-isolate and care for themself because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
    2. get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
    3. get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization;
  2. an employee’s need to care for a family member1 who:
    1. must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; or
    2. needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
  3. a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, or a health care provider;
  4. an employee’s need to care for a family member due to a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the family member by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, the family member’s employer, or a health care provider; or
  5. an employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.
  6. employers may not require employees to use other types of available paid leave before they use COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. Similarly, employers may not require employees to search for or find a replacement worker to cover the time the employee will miss while using COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.”

Leave Amounts

“1. Employers must provide 40 hours of COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to their employees who work 40 or more hours per week.

  1. For employees who regularly work fewer than 40 hours per week, employers must provide leave in an amount that is equal to the average number of hours that such employee works per week.
  2. For employees whose schedule and weekly hours vary from week to week, employers must provide leave that is equal to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work per week over the previous 6-months.
  3. If an employee with a variable schedule has not worked for the employer for 6 months, the employer must provide leave that is equal to the number of hours per week that the employee reasonably expected to work when hired.
  4. The maximum amount an employer is required to pay per employee, and the maximum amount for which the employer may seek reimbursement for any one employee, is $850 (including the cost of benefits).”

In addition to this useful information for you as an employee, there is additional information on the webpage. This information caters to employers and how they must properly respond to your use of Covid-19 sick leave. Primarily there is an anti-retaliation law, which is similar to the anti-retaliation law of the normal sick leave laws.

sick time Massachusetts Law

What Do These Laws Mean For You as an Employee or Job Seeker?

You may now wonder what all these laws mean for you as an employee or a job seeker. Primarily, these laws secure and affirm your right to accumulate and use sick time. It is important for you to keep these laws and rights in mind. They will help you when you need to use these rights if they become necessary in your career.

These laws are designed to be applied to as many situations as legally possible. The Covid-19 Addendum adds to this, as it provides much-needed protection for your employment in the current pandemic. It secures additional sick time just for Covid-19. This is a benefit as you do not need to use your previously accumulated sick time to cover quarantine.

Conclusion

Overall, it is important to have a healthy understanding of the sick time laws in Massachusetts. We hope this guide will be to your benefit as you enter into or continue contributing to the workforce. Sick time is vital for everyone, and it pays to use it when needed.

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