Just before the effective date of the state’s new earned sick time law on July 1, 2015, Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Maura Healey issued final regulations for the law. The regulations, which differed considerably from proposed regulations, contain some important information for Massachusetts employers:
Documentation. An employer may require written documentation for an employee’s use of earned sick time that (1) exceeds 24 consecutively scheduled work hours; and (2) exceeds 3 consecutive days on which the employee was scheduled to work.
Increments of time. For uses beyond 1 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 (e.g., if an employee takes 90 minutes off to go to the dentist, the employee has used only 90 minutes of sick time. If the employer counts time in smaller increments, it will have to allow employees to use sick time in those increments after the first hour of absence.).
Intersection with other leave laws. Sick time may run concurrently with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, domestic violence leave, Small Necessities Leave Act leave, and parental leave. Although the regulations say that employers may require employees to use sick time if taking those types of leave, the Parental Leave Act specifically states that whether to use sick time is the employee’s choice, so employers shouldn’t require the exhaustion of sick time during parental leave.
Additional purpose. The final regulations add travel to and from an appointment, pharmacy, or other related location to the reasons an employee may take sick time.
Calculation of wages. When an employee earns two different hourly wages, employers may choose to pay either a blended rate or the rate the employee would earn during the missed hours of work, but the employer must use the same method for the entire benefit year.
Employees on a piece rate may be paid a “reasonable calculation” of what they would have earned during the missed time, but it cannot be less than the minimum wage. Tipped employees must be paid the minimum wage for missed time. Employees who miss a shift that would have paid a differential must be paid the shift differential in addition to their regular rate.
Accrual of sick time. Employees accrue sick time only for hours actually worked, not during vacation, paid time off, or while using sick time.
The regulations also include information on the use of sick time, payout of sick time, notice that may be required for an employee’s use of sick time and definitions of who constitutes a covered healthcare provider, as well as other important information.
To see a copy of the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time regulations, as well as more information on the new law, go to the AG’s website.