What Are My Rights Under Massachusetts’ Earned Sick Time Law?

Understanding sick day accrual and use

By Kevin Salzman | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on December 7, 2023

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Under Massachusetts’ sick leave law, employers must provide their employees up to 40 hours of earned sick time per year.

The hours of sick leave are meant to allow workers paid time away from their places of employment if they are:

  • Ill or injured;
  • Attending routine medical appointments or preventative medical care;
  • Dealing with the effects of domestic violence; or
  • Caring for a sick family member or parent of a spouse.

Nearly Every Massachusetts Employer Is Covered by the Law

With few exceptions, every employer in Massachusetts is required to comply with the earned sick time law.

However, the new law does not cover independent contractors. If a person is not a part-time or full-time employee of a company—but is instead an “independent contractor”—the company is not required to provide earned sick time to that person.

Sick Time May Be Awarded in a Lump Sum or on an Hourly Basis

Employers have two options when it comes to awarding earned sick time to their employees:

  1. First, employers may award earned paid leave based on hourly increments. Under this approach, the employee is entitled to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours actually worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
  2. Under the second approach, if the employer chooses to award the earned number of hours in a lump sum, the amount of earned sick time awarded must not be less than the equivalent of one hour per 30 hours actually worked.

For example: Suppose Ben works 150 hours per month. The employer may either award Ben five hours of earned sick leave at the beginning of the month or two and one-half hours of earned sick leave every pay period, assuming that Ben is paid every other week by the employer’s payroll system.

Earned Sick Leave for Out-of-State and Overtime Work

Finally, the law requires earned sick leave hours for time worked for a Massachusetts company both within and outside of the state, as well as for any overtime hours.

For example, suppose an employee works for a construction company that performed 600 hours of work in Massachusetts and another 300 work hours in Rhode Island. They would be eligible for earned sick leave for all 900 hours worked, which equates to 35 hours of earned sick leave.

Not all earned sick leave must be paid sick leave. However, the law has anti-retaliation provisions preventing employers from taking retaliatory actions if an employee uses their earned sick leave for personal or family illnesses. 

Find an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

If you have questions about your legal protections or your employer’s sick leave policy, or feel your sick time rights have been violated, consult with a Massachusetts employment attorney

For more information about this legal area, see our overviews of employment law and our wage and hour laws.

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