Ask an Attorney: Earned Sick Leave

Published: July 30, 2017

Our AMTA-MA Chapter Attorney, Scott Dunlap, presents at each of our Annual Chapter Meetings to discuss timely legal matters and share stories of how your chapter dollars are put to work. At the 2015 May Annual Chapter Meeting, both Mark Molloy our AMTA-MA Chapter Lobbyist, and Scott reviewed the Earned Sick Leave Law that was to take affect on July 1, 2015. There were various questions raised at the meeting and in subsequent emails to us, your AMTA-MA Chapter. Mark Molloy provided a great break down as to the implication for the massage profession. We are still hearing the need for clarification. Since, we, as your Board of Directors, Program Directors and volunteers, are not equipped to field these types of questions, we are going to continuously relay information directly from our Attorney to you as any laws or legal matters arise, create opportunities for you to hear directly from our attorney, and provide resources for you to access.

The following is a question from an AMTA-MA member who is an employee of a small practice with less than 10 employees regarding earned sick leave. You will find Scott Dunlap's answer below.

Q. "I am an employee in a small practice of under 10 employees, so as I read this, I can earn sick time now, but it doesn't have to paid? That doesn't change anything for me and my employees then. If we are sick and can't see clients, we call out and lose the income. Also, how would time accrue if I am on the schedule for 20 hours/week but technically paid a commission based on client hours/spots scheduled?"

A. Effective July 1, 2015, the “Paid Sick Days” law took effect, which appears in Mass. General Laws, ch. 149, § 148C. Notwithstanding the title, not all sick days are paid. Employees of businesses that employ eleven or more people are entitled to accrue paid sick leave under the law. Employees of businesses with less than eleven employees may still accrue sick leave, but the employer is not required to compensate those employees when the time is used. The applicable sections of the law, M.G.L. ch. 149, §§ 148C (d)4, 6, are as follows:

(4) All employees employed by an employer of eleven or more employees shall be entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of earned paid sick time from that employer as provided in subsection (d) in a calendar year. In determining the number of employees who are employed by an employer for compensation, all employees performing work for compensation on a full-time, part-time or temporary basis shall be counted.

(6) All employees not entitled to earned paid sick time from an employer pursuant to subsection (d)(4)-(5) shall be entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of earned unpaid sick time from that employer as provided in subsection (d) in a calendar year.

With respect to accrual, the law states that employees accrue at least one hour of earned sick leave for every thirty hours of work. Therefore, if you are on the schedule (at the business) for those twenty hours, you would accrue 2/3 of an hour each week. The law does not contain a distinction for commission as opposed to being on premise for twenty hours per week. The applicable language below is located at M.G.L. c. 149, § 148C(d)(1):

(1) An employer shall provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every thirty hours worked by an employee. Employees shall begin accruing earned sick time commencing with the date of hire of the employee or the date this law becomes effective, whichever is later, but employees shall not be entitled to use accrued earned sick time until the 90th calendar day following commencement of their employment. On and after this 90 day period, employees may use earned sick time as it accrues.

A copy of the complete statute can be read here.