Below is a summary of the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law. The law applies to all private employers, and requires them to provide employees with up to 40 hours of sick time per year. The information below is not legal advice. If you believe that a company violated your rights under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law, please contact us.
How does the Earned Sick Time Law work?
If your employer has 11 or more employees, you may use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. If you work for a smaller employer, you may earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year. You can use this sick leave for reasons such as (1) caring for yourself while sick, (2) caring for certain family members who are sick, (3) going to a routine medical appointment or a family member’s routine appointment, and (4) addressing the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence.
Am I eligible for earned sick time?
Most employees who work in Massachusetts are eligible, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, per-diem, and temporary employees. Your workplace must be in Massachusetts. All employers, regardless of the number of employees, must provide earned sick time.
Do I need to work a certain number of hours to be eligible?
No, you don’t need to work a certain number of hours to be eligible for sick leave. However, sick time is earned based on the number of hours you work. If you work few hours, you will accrue less sick time.
Does my employer have to provide earned sick time to me?
Yes, almost all employers in Massachusetts have to provide earned sick time. Even if your employer is located outside of Massachusetts, you are entitled to earned sick time as long as your primary workplace is in the state. The only employers who can follow different rules are the US government, Massachusetts cities and towns, and certain other local public employers.
PAID OR UNPAID
Is my earned sick time paid or unpaid?
If your employer has 11 or more employees, earned sick leave must be paid. If an employer has 10 or fewer employees, the leave may be unpaid.
How is an employer’s size determined?
All employees who work on a full-time, part-time, seasonal, per diem, or temp basis are counted, regardless of where they are located.
Who is my employer if I am a “temp worker”?
If you were assigned work through a staffing agency, you count as an employee of both the staffing agency and the employer.
SICK TIME ACCRUAL
How do I earn sick time?
It depends on the system your employer has chosen to use. Many employers have a system where you accrue sick time as you work. Others provide sick time on a monthly or yearly basis as a lump sum. If you accrue time, your employer must let you earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
How much earned sick time can I use?
You can use up to 40 hours per year, if you have earned that time.
When do I start accruing?
Sick time starts accruing on your first day of work.
What hours count towards accrual?
All of your work hours, including overtime and hours worked outside of Massachusetts, count towards accrual.
USING MY SICK TIME
When can an employee begin using earned sick time?
You can start using earned sick time 90 days after your first day of work.
What can earned sick time be used for?
Earned sick time can be used for (1) caring for yourself while sick, (2) caring for certain family members who are sick, (3) traveling to and attending a routine medical appointment or a family member’s routine appointment, or (4) addressing the psychological, physical, or legal effects of domestic violence.
What family members am I allowed to care for using sick time?
You can take earned sick time to care for your child (regardless of the child’s age), spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse.
How much am I paid for sick time (if my sick time is paid)?
Your sick time pay is the same as your standard pay. For example, if you earn $15 per hour normally, your sick pay is still $15 per hour. Sick time hours can not be paid at overtime rates.
If I use my sick time, when does my employer have to pay me?
Earned paid sick time must be paid on the same schedule as your regular pay. Your employer is not allowed to delay paid sick time.
If I use sick time, can my employer require me to find my own replacement?
No. An employer can never require an employee to find a replacement.
What increment of time can I use for tracking my used sick leave?
The smallest amount of sick time you can use is one hour. Beyond one hour, you can use any increment of time that your employer’s payroll system uses to log other standard time.
Can my employer require that I use sick leave only in certain blocks of time?
No. For example, your employer can not require that you take sick time in 4-hour blocks.
OTHER PAID TIME OFF POLICIES
Can my employer use other paid time off (like vacation or personal days) to count as the sick leave time they are required to offer me?
Yes. As long as you can use the paid time off for the same reasons and in the same ways, those hours can count as earned sick time.
If I use up all of my paid time off, does my employer have to provide additional leave if I get sick?
No. If the PTO policy is at least equal to what is required for sick leave (at least 40 hours of sick time), your employer doesn’t have to offer additional leave. Your employer does, however, have to provide notice that this is the case.
COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR EMPLOYER
When and how do I tell my employer that I am using my sick time?
You have to make a good faith effort to give your employer advanced warning of your plan to use sick time. To use your sick time, you do not have to specifically reference the Earned Sick Time Law or the term “earned sick time.” Your employer should have a policy or procedure in place for you to provide them with reasonable notice of your sick time use. If you are using sick time for something pre-scheduled, like an annual check-up, your employer may require up to seven days’ notice.
Can my employer require that I report specific things about my sick time usage to them?
Yes. Your employer can require you to notify them on a daily basis of your sick time usage, or that you submit written confirmation that you used sick time after you used it. Your employer can require written documentation if you are gone for more than 24 consecutive works hours, you are gone for three consecutive work days, your time off happens two weeks before your last day of work, or your time off happens after four undocumented absences within three months. Your employer may require a statement from a health care provider, or a written statement from you, saying the sick time was needed. Your employer cannot require details about a medical condition.
Can I get in trouble for fraudulent sick time use?
Yes. Your employer may discipline you for misuse of earned sick time, like lying about how you used the sick time, or using sick time to get out of responsibilities at work.
Is my employer required to maintain, and let me see, my sick time records?
Yes. If your employer has a sick time policy separate from PTO, the employer must keep a record. You have to be allowed to access your own record.
Does my employer have to post a notice about the Earned Sick Time Law?
Yes. They must post a notice about sick time where you are likely to see it and in the language you speak. Your employer also has to give you a copy of this notice, or include the company’s sick time policy in an employee manual.
RETALIATION AND VIOLATION
Can my employer retaliate against me for using sick time?
No. Retaliation is illegal. Retaliation includes any threat, discipline, discharge, demotion, suspension, reduction in wages, or any other negative employment action against you for exercising your rights.
Can I sue my employer?
Yes, but you first have to file a complaint with the Attorney General and wait 90 days after filing, or receive permission from the Attorney General to sue your employer before the 90 days have passed.