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State Issues Final Sick-Time Regulations

Posted on June 22, 2015

Attorney General Maura Healey on Friday issued final regulations for the state’s earned sick-time law, rules that clarify major employer concerns from the ability to use existing paid-time off benefits to preventing abuse.

health_careThe regulations outline conditions that will allow some companies to comply with the law through their existing time-off plans, as long as those plans provide employees with as much or more sick time as the law, and observe prohibitions on retaliation and interference.

The rules also assert that earned sick-time runs concurrently with certain other federal and state leave laws and that an employee who leaves for longer than four months and hasn’t accrued at least 10 hours of sick time will not be able to carry over any hours when he or she returns.

Employers now have nine days to digest the regulations before the earned sick time law takes effect on July 1.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which filed 19 pages of comments to the regulations based on thousands of questions posed by member employers, commended the attorney general for responding to business concerns under a tight timeline.

“The attorney general really was listening to the legitimate concerns of businesspeople who want to comply with this new law. We give her high marks for this,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“AIM has worked with employers throughout the regulation and process and is now prepared to help those employers understand the regulations and comply with them.”

AIM will conduct a series of seminars throughout the commonwealth during July that will review specifics of the regulations and look at a model policy and sample documents.

Among the issues of interest to employers in the final regulations:

  • An employer may require documentation for absence that exceeds three consecutive days; that occurs within two weeks of leaving a position; after four unforeseeable absences in a three- month period; or after three unforeseeable absences in a three-month period for employees 17 or under.
  • Employees using earned sick time are compensated at their regular rate of pay, plus any shift differential. Overtime and contributions to health insurance or other benefits are excluded.
  • Employees with multiple rates of pay may be compensated for earned sick time either at the rate that would have applied on the date of absence or at a blended rate calculated on the prior pay period, month, quarter or other period of time.
  • Piecework employees accrue sick time through a reasonable projection of hours worked based on established practices or billing.
  • Earned sick time may not be used as an excuse for being late without an authorized purpose.
  • An employee may not accept a shift assignment with the intention of calling out sick for all or part of the shift.
  • The employer may discipline employees for clear pattern of using earned sick time before or after weekends or holidays.
  • The minimum increment of time for using earned sick time is one hour, though employers may use fractions of an hour for time more than an hour if their payroll system can track such fractions.
  • Employers that provide 40 hours of paid time off in a lump sum at the start of the year do not have to track accruals or allow the carryover of earned sick time from year to year, provided the use of the time is consistent with earned sick time.
  • Employers may opt to delay accruals of earned sick time for employees with a bank of 40 hours until the bank is reduced below 40 hours.
  • Employers that choose to offer time off through a paid time-off or vacation policy that complies with the earned sick time law do not have to track and keep a separate record of earned sick time use.
  • Employers using existing paid time-off policies must ensure that all used time enjoys the same job protection. The employer may have different policies for different groups of employees as long as all employees accrue and use same amount of time under same conditions.

Employers must also determine during the next several days whether they wish to seek the “safe harbor” that will provide them a six-month transition period for complying with the earned sick time law. Companies seeking the safe harbor are required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full and part-time.

Register for an AIM Earned Sick-Time Seminar