Attorney General Proposes Regulations to Govern Massachusetts Sick Leave Law

In accord with the new sick leave law passed by Massachusetts voters in November and set to take effect on July 1, 2015, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has issued draft regulations. Once adopted, the AG’s rules will govern sick leave issues in substantial respects by filling in gaps in the law and adding important interpretations. Following are some highlights of the AG’s current proposal.

— Sick leave accrual will apply to all employees, broadly defined to include anyone who “performs services for an employer” as set out in the state’s independent contractor statute. It is thus highly unlikely that businesses will avoid the accrual and pay requirements of the new statute by classifying workers as contractors.

— All employees whose primary place of work is in Massachusetts will be covered by the law, even if they also work in other states.

— Workers who are employed on April 1, 2015 will start accruing leave (at the rate one hour for every 30 worked) on July 1 and can use it as it accrues. Others will also accrue leave beginning July 1 (if then employed) but cannot use it until employed for 90 days.

— Workers can make up missed sick time rather than using accrued time if agreed by the parties, but employers cannot force them to do this.

— Employee sick time must be paid if a company had 11 or more workers during 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, or if it had 11 workers during any 16-week stretch. Part-time workers are included.

— In lieu of a health care provider’s certification of illnesses, which can be requested after a consecutive 24 work-hour absence, those without a doctor can provide a written statement of their need for sick leave and do not need to explain the nature of their illnesses.

— Records of accrued and used sick time must be created and maintained for at least three years, and an AG notice of the new law must be posted in conspicuous work locations.

Workers can use leave for their own illnesses, to care for certain family members’ health, or to address the effects of domestic violence. The AG’s proposed regulations are currently under review, with several public hearings yet to come. They are expected to be finalized in June. Employers should plan now for proper policy implementation. In some cases, which the AG also addresses in the draft regulations, existing leave policies will satisfy legal requirements. Employers will always be permitted, of course, to grant employees extra leave time.