Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is offering online training sessions for Massachusetts employers, to provide guidance for implementing the new earned sick leave law, which went into effect on July 1. Important information regarding the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees is discussed. Each session is about two hours long, and consists of a quick review of the law by representatives from the AG’s office, with the remaining time spent answering specific questions via an online chat session. It can be very helpful to anyone affected by the new law, and especially those having a specific question, and are required to provide paid leave.
These sessions continue through the month of August, and they also are conducting in-person sessions as well. Information for attending these can be found here and click on the “Info Session RSVP” tab to register. From the number of questions in the online chat session, it is evident that many business owners and managers are still struggling with understanding this law and the new regulations. Answers to most of the questions asked can be found in the content of the new regulations. Others are not answered specifically answered in the regulations, and needed clarification, which was provided by the AG’s representatives.
Here’s a sample of the questions asked, along with the answers provided by the AG’s office representatives:
Q: If an employee is out sick for a shift that they would be getting paid overtime for, would their sick pay need to be overtime pay?
A: No, it would be their regular rate of pay.
Q: If my employee gets paid the service rate of $3.00 per hour (plus tips), what do they get paid if they are out sick?
A: The would get paid $9.00 per hour, which is the standard minimum wage (no allowance is paid for tips they may have possibly made)
Q: Are employees earning sick leave when they are out on any leave such as vacation?
A: No, they only earn sick leave on hours actually worked
Some employers may believe, if they provide more sick leave than one hour for every thirty hours worked, thus being more generous than the law requires, that they do not need to follow the regulations. This however, is not true. For example, if an employer provides their employees 50 hours a year of front loaded sick leave, they are providing a more generous sick leave than the law requires. However, they need to comply with all the sick leave law regulations for the first 40 hours of that leave. What this means is that they cannot retaliate for someone calling out sick, they need to allow their employees to use 40 hours of their sick time for purposes allowed by the new law, they need to let them use their sick leave after 90 days of employment, etc.; in other words, the employees can use those 40 hours for the same purposes, under the same conditions, and with the same job protections provided in M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C. Anything over and above the amount of leave the law requires is not subject to the regulations, according to the AG’s representative, as discussed during the July 23 online session. Employees can also organise their own disability insurance so that they receive financial help if they ever have to take time off work for illness or injury. This is an important thing to look into if you’re worried about these changes in legislation surrounding sick leave, so research questions like ‘is long term disability insurance deductible‘? to get an idea of whether or not it is something you’d like to invest in. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to help employers so much though.
The change in law has been a frustrating process for some employers. This law was approved by voters on November 4, 2014. The AG’s office released the final regulations on June 19 after six public hearings, and considerable feedback from employers affected by the law. Significant changes were made, and the final regulations can be found here. All employers need to comply with this law, and should attend a training session if unsure of the regulations. Violations to this law are wage law violations, and an employee can file a private civil action against an employer for violations. If the employee prevails, they are entitled to mandatory treble damages, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Questions? Comments? Please email me.