On November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Ballot Question 4, approving a new law granting employees significant rights to earn and take sick time. The article below, the first in our series of articles examining the new law, addresses the applicability of the law to various businesses in the Commonwealth.

Massachusetts General Law c. 149 §148C, which becomes effective on July 1, 2015, will require employers to provide up to 40 hours of earned sick time to employees each calendar year. Employees will earn at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Earned sick time will start to accrue on the date of hire or July 1, 2015 (whichever is later).

Of note, the statute has different sick time requirements depending on the size of an employer. Businesses with less than 11 employees must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to employees. Businesses with 11 or more employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to employees, to be paid at the employee’s normal hourly pay rate.

The new law includes extremely broad definitions rendering it applicable to nearly all businesses in the Commonwealth. The statute defines an employer as any “individual, corporation, partnership or other private or public entity, including any agent thereof, who engages the services of an employee for wages, remuneration or other compensation… .” The United States government and certain Massachusetts cities and towns are excluded from the definition.

Furthermore, with the exception of some municipal workers, all persons who perform services for wages, remuneration, or other compensation fall within the statute’s definition of an “employee”. This means that full time, part time, and even temporary workers will be entitled to earned sick time from employers. The expansive definition also means that part time and temporary workers (along with full time workers) will be counted in calculating the total number of employees at a business. For example, an entity that employs no full time employees and 20 part-time workers will be considered as having 20 employees for the purposes of this statute. Therefore, that employer would be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to all 20 of the part-time employees.

Although not specifically addressed in the statute, it appears likely that owners of businesses who draw a salary would also be considered “employees” under the statute’s broad definition. If so, a business which has five part time workers, five full time workers, and an owner who draws a salary would have 11 employees for the purposes of the statute and be required to provide paid sick time to its employees.

Please read the second installment in our series titled Part II: Use of Sick Time Under the New Law concerning the new sick time law and its effect on Massachusetts businesses. If you have questions about Question 4, changes to employee sick time laws, or about any other employment law issues, please contact Attorney Michael P. Doherty, Andrew M. Kepple or one of our other employment attorneys at 508 541-3000.