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Legislators Resist Date Change for Sick-Leave Law as Employers Struggle with Regulations

Posted on April 30, 2015

A day after Beacon Hill lawmakers again declined to delay the start of the new earned sick-time law, employers barraged AIM experts with more than 550 questions today about proposed regulations for the statute with which they must comply eight weeks from now.

SneezeMore than 600 Bay State employers used an AIM Webinar to express confusion over details ranging from which employees will be eligible for paid sick time to the wisdom of merging existing paid time-off programs into the new law.

“The overwhelming number of people who took part in the Webinar and asked questions underscores the problem that employers are going to have implementing a complex and far-reaching law for which only draft rules of the road now exist,” said Russ Sullivan, Vice President in the AIM Employers Resource Group and one of the Webinar leaders.

“This was the largest turnout for an information Webinar in my time at AIM and I know we had many other employers who wanted to attend but were tied up.”

The House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a budget amendment from Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-Reading) that would have delayed the July 1 implementation date for paid sick time by 90 days.

“So the regulations wouldn’t be finalized until just days before this takes effect, so businesses will have only a matter of days to make changes to payroll and how they run their business,” Jones said during floor debate.

Other legislators disagreed.

“Payroll is fairly straightforward. I’m married to an accountant. I encourage members to stay the course and honor the will of the voters and allow this law to follow the timeframe,” said Rep. Denise Provost, D-Somerville.

The amendment failed by a vote of 113 to 45.

It marked the second time in as many weeks that the Legislature rebuffed efforts by AIM to change the effective date of the law approved by voters November 4. The state Senate turned back a similar amendment on April 16.

Sullivan and fellow AIM Vice President Tom Jones, Esq., told employers during today’s Webinar that the paid sick-days law will impact every Massachusetts company, as well as out-of-state companies with employees in Massachusetts. They also warned that companies with existing paid time-off plans may not comply with the new law.

Among the issues raised by employers:

  • Employers must determine the 12-month period during which employees will accrue paid sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Sullivan and Jones recommended using the same 12-month calendar or fiscal year for all employees.
  • Employers must also decide whether to pay employees for any earned sick time that exceeds 16 hours at the end of the 12-month period. Employees may otherwise elect to use sick days during the final week of the year instead of losing the time.
  • Perhaps the most complex challenge facing employers is whether to replace or merge existing vacation or time-off benefits with earned sick days. Sullivan said such combinations are fraught with danger since any time off provided under the new law requires no more than seven days of advance notice from employees and might not be subject to verification.
  • Virtually all employees ” full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal and interns ” are covered by the new law. And for employees who spend most of their working hours in Massachusetts but work in other states as well, all of their hours in all states will be used to accrue sick leave in the Bay State.

“It doesn’t matter what you classify an employee as. Applicability is going to be determined by the actual number of hours worked over time,” Jones said.

The Attorney General’s office has scheduled six public hearings on the draft regulations and will accept comments through June 10. Employers who wish to submit comments or to testify at a hearing should contact Brad MacDougall, Vice President of Government Affairs, at