July 1st signaled the beginning of paid sick leave for MA and CA employees
Employees in California and Massachusetts who previously did not receive paid sick leave are now eligible for this benefit. In Massachusetts, employers must now provide all employees with five days of sick leave per year, paid or unpaid depending on the employer’s size. California employers, on the other hand, must now provide employees at least three paid sick days per year. Employers that already provide paid time off, vacation, or other leave benefits can potentially use existing policies to meet their new compliance obligations as long as its meets the minimum requirements of the new law. Below is a high-level overview of some of the major provisions of each state’s sick leave law.
Massachusetts voters approved the Earned Sick Time Law on November 4, 2014. Since July 1, 2015, employees in Massachusetts have been able to earn and use sick time according to a number of conditions. For example, employers with 11 or more employees must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave annually, while employers with 10 or fewer employers are required to provide up to 40 hours of unpaid leave. All employees, regardless if they are full or part-time, must accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. A vital note for employers is that they are prohibited from interfering with an employee who uses their earned sick time, and from retaliating against an employee’s support of another employee’s use of these rights.
The final regulations state that the time off provided under the new law runs concurrent with time off provided by other leave laws such as the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, the Small Necessities Leave Act, the Massachusetts Domestic Violence Leave Act, and the FMLA. Depending on the company, some employees may be able to choose to use earned paid sick time when taking other permitted leave that would otherwise be unpaid.
California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 went into effect on January 1, 2015, but the right to amass and use sick leave under that law did not begin until July 1st. All California employers, including state and municipal governments, with at least one employee must provide paid sick time to employees who work in-state at least 30 days within a year of their start date. The majority of employees who satisfy the in-state work threshold will be entitled to paid sick time under the new law. However, there is an exception for employees who are included within a valid collective bargaining agreement that provides for paid sick leave and other particular criteria.
The law allows employers to provide paid sick time in two different ways, either by:
- Accumulating one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked; or
- Granting a lump sum of 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave at the start of each year.
Despite which option is used, employers may cap the amount of time an employee can take to 24 hours or three days per year. Employees are not permitted to utilize accrued sick time until their 90th day of employment. They can also carry over sick time that has gone unused to the following year, but the employer may limit that amount of time to 24 hours or three days each year.
Sick time laws continue to change around the country, and each state has their own specific regulations. If your company has offices in multiple states, your policy could be more complicated than initially perceived. At WGA, our Employee Benefits team can assist employers with comprehending these and any new requirements. Additionally, we will work with you to evaluate and update existing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local leave laws.
About the Author
Priya Setty is an Assistant Vice President in the Employee Benefits Group at WGA. Her role involves educating and providing compliance guidance to clients in applicable local, state and federal regulations affecting their insurance programs and employees. She is also a member of WGA’s Health Reform Advisory Committee.