Model notice for new Massachusetts paid sick leave law published

by Kimberly A. Klimczuk

The Massachusetts attorney general (AG) has published a model notice that employers may use to fulfill their obligations to notify employees about the state’s new earned sick leave law that goes into effect on July 1.

In addition, the AG has issued a new “safe harbor” notice that makes it easier for employers to take advantage of the safe-harbor protection. Under that process, qualified employers will have until January 1, 2016, to bring their paid time off (PTO) and related policies into full compliance with the sick leave law.

Model notice

Effective July 1, 2015, the earned sick leave law requires employers to post a notice and provide employees with a copy of the notice. Although final regulations won’t be published until June 19, the model notice contains information that suggests the final regs will include significant changes from the proposed regs. For example, the law and proposed regs state that employers must track sick leave in the smallest increment their payroll system uses to account for absences or the use of other time. The AG’s model notice, however, states that “the smallest amount of sick time an employee can take is one hour.”

In addition, despite the law’s clear language that employers may not require documentation of an employee’s need for leave unless he has been absent for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours, the model notice provides that employers may require documentation if an employee misses work for three consecutive days or uses any sick time within two weeks of leaving a job. The model notice also clarifies that sick time “cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without advance notice of a proper use.”

Safe harbor

As we previously reported, the AG issued a “safe harbor” provision for employers with existing PTO policies. The safe harbor allows employers to continue enforcing PTO policies until January 1, 2016, as long as they provide at least 30 hours of PTO for all employees in 2015. The announcement was helpful for employers with primarily full-time workers who already receive at least 30 hours of PTO per year. Employers with non-benefit-eligible employees, however, were faced with the option of either providing all employees (including per diem, temporary, and seasonal employees) with 30 hours of PTO for the second half of 2015 or coming into full compliance with the law for those employees on July 1, 2015.

The new announcement makes it easier for employers with part-time, temporary, or per diem employees to take advantage of the safe harbor. Specifically, employers with a PTO or paid sick leave policy as of May 1, 2015, will be deemed to be in compliance with the earned sick leave law until January 1, 2016, provided they meet all the requirements laid out by the AG in the safe-harbor notice.

More information on the new earned sick time law will be available in future issues of Massachusetts Employment Law Letter.

Kimberly A. Klimczuk is an attorney with Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., in Springfield. She testified at a May 29 public hearing on the new sick leave law in an effort to bring client concerns to the attention of the AG and her staff. She can be reached at