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Massachusetts Sick Leave Law

Published in Massachusetts Law on December 10, 2019

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Taking leave without fear of losing your job when you are sick is a right you have as an employee in Massachusetts. State law mandates all employers must provide sick leave – paid or unpaid – to all employees. Employers must offer sick leave without retaliating against those who take it, such as with demotions, penalties or job termination.

Are Sick Days Paid in Massachusetts?

Whether or not you receive paid sick days in Massachusetts is up to your employer. State law does not require employers to provide paid sick leave. The Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law, effective July 1st, 2015, requires employers in the state to give unpaid sick leave. The law gives employees the ability to earn up to 40 hours of sick time per year, unpaid.

Your employer may have to give you paid sick leave, however, if the company promised it in an employment contract. Read the language of your contract carefully to find out if you should receive compensation for sick days. Independent contractors do not have the same rights or protections as employees. Employers in Massachusetts do not legally have to give sick time to independent contractors unless the contract states otherwise.

All employers must provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours the employee works, up to a maximum requirement of 40 sick hours per calendar year. By law, employees can start to accrue sick time on the day of hire, but they may not use sick time until at least 90 days have passed. An employer may not use the sick leave law as a reason to prohibit employees from accruing sick time at a faster rate or an earlier date.

Can an Employer Refuse a Sick Day?

The point of Massachusetts Earned Sick Leave Law is to protect employees. An employer cannot lawfully refuse a sick day if you accrue and use it within the confines of the law and your employment contract. An employer can lawfully, however, refuse a sick day if requested within the first 90 days of employment.

Your employer can also refuse a sick day if you have not yet accrued enough hours to cover the hours requested. Without enough accrued paid or unpaid sick leave, an employer may require you to come to work or make up the sick leave hours taken. If your employer had to hire a replacement during your absence, the employer may require you to use the number of accrued hours your replacement had to work.

An employer may refuse a request for sick leave if you do not fulfill the doctor’s note requirement as well. Employers have the right to require employees to confirm the reason for taking the sick leave. You may have to verify your reason in writing or submit a note from a health care provider supporting the leave. In most cases, a doctor’s note is only a requirement if you need more than 24 consecutive scheduled work hours off or 3 consecutive days, if you use the sick leave within 2 weeks of leaving the job, or if you use sick leave after 4 undocumented absences within 3 months (or 3 absences if you are 17 or under).

What Can You Legally Use Sick Days For?

The law lists four reasons for which you may use designated sick leave in Massachusetts. An employer does not legally have to approve a sick leave request for a reason outside of the four listed.

  1. To care for your sick child, spouse, parent or spouse’s parent. The sick relative must have a physical or mental illness or injury that requires professional care, home care or preventive medical care.
  2. To care for yourself if you have a medical condition, illness or injury as described above.
  3. To attend a medical appointment or that of a spouse, child, parent or spouse’s parent.
  4. To address the physical or cognitive effects of domestic violence.

Employees in Massachusetts do not have to use accrued sick leave in increments. You are at liberty to take multiple sick days at once, one at a time or not at all. You can also choose to use hours of sick leave instead of full days, such as leaving an hour early to go to a doctor’s appointment. An employer does not have to allow unused sick days to roll over into the next calendar year. Contact our Boston personal injury lawyers at Sweeney Merrigan Law LLP if you are seeking legal advice.

For more information, call our law office at (617)-391-9001. Or if you would prefer to email us, then please visit our contact page.

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