Most Massachusetts employers are aware of the Earned Sick Time law (the “Law”) that is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2015.  For further information about that Law, please see our November, 2014 E-Mail Alerthttp://marshallhalem.blogspot.com/2015/01/massachusetts-new-paid-sick-time.html.  The Attorney General recently issued Proposed Regulations and is in the process of soliciting public comments about those Proposed Regulations.  When the Attorney General issues Final Regulations we will send you an E-Mail Alert describing them.

Likely in response to employer concerns about the implementation of the Law between July 1 and December 31, 2015, the Attorney General has also issued an option which some employers may elect to delay full compliance with the Law until January 1, 2016.  Specifically, on May 18, 2015, the Attorney General issued a “Safe Harbor for Employers with Existing Paid Time Off Policies”.

According to that Safe Harbor, an employer having an existing (as of May 1, 2015) paid time off policy that grants employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the 2015 calendar year shall be in compliance with the law for those employees from July 1 to December 31, 2015.   The Safe Harbor does not require that the paid time off be explicitly labeled “sick time”.  Rather, it appears that any paid time off will satisfy the 30 hour requirement.

To be in compliance, all leave taken under the employer’s existing paid time off policy must be job protected and employers are prohibited from retaliating against any employee who uses paid time off.

Employers who meet the 30 hour requirement may continue to administer the use of paid time off under their existing policies.

If specific employees do not have the right to take at least 30 hours of paid time off during the 2015 calendar year, their employers can only take advantage of the Safe Harbor for those employees by giving them 30 hours of paid time off which the employees may use during the remainder of 2015.

Thus, the Safe Harbor provides little assistance to employers with part-time, temporary or seasonal employees who do not earn the required amount of paid time off.  Unless their employer grants them 30 hours of paid time off to use during the rest of the year, those employees will begin to earn sick time under the Law on July 1, 2015.  As a result, a few employers may find that they can take advantage of the Safe Harbor to delay the implementation of the Law until January 1, 2016 for some employees, while others will be covered by the Law on July 1, 2015.  Such employers may find it easier simply to comply with the Law fully beginning on July 1, 2015 and not take advantage of the Safe Harbor.

By January 1, 2016, all employers must be in compliance with the Law.

We will continue to update our friends and clients as this Law develops.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about this Law or your obligations.