Skip to content Skip to footer

Table of contents

This Massachusetts Human Resources Manual is offered to you for free. Find state specific laws and regulations below.

Other types of leave — Massachusetts

In addition to meal and rest periods, Massachusetts law requires that employers provide their employees with leave or time off in for various other reasons, as described below.

Time off to vote

Under Massachusetts law, employees who work in manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishments and who are eligible to vote are entitled to time off to do so during the first two hours after the polls open in the employee’s voting precinct. The employee must request the time off, and employers do not need to pay the employee for this time. Because the time off is limited to the first two hours that polls are open in the employee’s precinct and most polling places open early, this type of request for leave is uncommon but must be honored during those two hours.

Sick leave

In November 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a law requiring all employers to provide sick leave to all employees (with limited exceptions applicable to federal or municipal employers) and further requiring all employers of 11 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to its workers. The law provides that after their 19th calendar day of employment, employees accrue a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours of work performed. Employees must be eligible to use up to 40 hours of earned sick time per calendar year; and employers of 11 or more employees must permit their employees to use up to 40 hours of earned, paid sick time per calendar year. Paid sick time must be paid at the same hourly rate in effect as of the date that the sick time is used. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused by earned sick time to the following year, but employers obligated to provide paid earned sick time are not required to pay out any earned but unused sick time upon termination of employment.

Under the sick leave law, earned sick time may be used for the following four reasons:

  1. to care for the employee’s immediate family member (child, spouse, parent or parent-in-law) who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care or preventative care
  2. to care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition
  3. to attend to the employee’s routine medical appointment or that of the employee’s immediate family member
  4. to address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence against the employee or the employee’s child.

Employees may be required to provide advanced notice of the need to take earned sick time when the use of such time is foreseeable, and employers may require their employees to certify the need to take earned sick time when the use of earned sick time covers more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. Employers are required to provide notice to employees of their rights under the law, and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has prepared a notice form (available on its Internet website) that employers must post in a conspicuous location accessible to all employees.

The law provides that employers that have existing policies that provide employees with as much (or more) earned sick time as the law provides need not provide employees with additional sick time – provided that the employer’s existing policies make sick time available to employees for the same purposes and conditions as provided in the law. Further, the statute provides that an employer may not use the fact that an employee has used earned sick time “as a negative factor in any employment action.” 

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, which is charged with enforcing the paid sick leave law, has issued final regulations concerning the law. Some of the most significant provisions of those regulations are described below:

  • The final regulations provide that earned sick time may run concurrently with other forms of statutory time off and that employers may require that other forms of unpaid statutory leave run concurrently.
  • The final regulations clarify that the rate paid for earned sick time for hourly employees is the employee’s regular hourly rate and excludes overtime compensation, holiday pay or other premium pay (but it would include a shift differential if applicable).
  • For employees paid on a salary basis, the final regulations state that their regular hourly rate is determined by dividing the total earnings in the previous pay period by the total hours worked during the previous pay period. In addition, to address concerns about how this provision would apply to employees exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the regulation states that those employees shall be assumed to work 40 hours per week for purposes of this calculation, unless they have a normal workweek that is less than 40 hours (this is the same assumption used for purposes of accrual).
  • For tipped employees who ordinarily receive the service rate, the regular hourly rate for sick time purposes is the effective minimum wage.
  • The final regulations provide that an employee who transfers to a Massachusetts workplace will begin to accrue earned sick time upon the first day the employee works in Massachusetts. Employees who transfer to a job outside of Massachusetts do not accrue additional earned sick time following the transfer, but they are entitled to the earned sick time that was accrued previously.
  • The final regulations state that earned sick time is accrued only on working time, not during PTO, vacation or other nonworking paid time.
  • The final regulations confirm that sick leave accrual and year-end carryover is capped at 40 hours annually – in other words, once an employee accrues 40 hours in any year, he or she does not accrue further leave regardless of additional worked hours and may only carry over a maximum of 40 hours into the next year. Also, the statute and regulations only entitle an employee to use up to 40 hours per year.
  • The final regulations state that employers may create a policy that halts continued accrual if the employee has “banked” 40 unused sick time hours; but they also state that an employer must permit the employee to start accruing sick leave again if the employee uses earned sick time and reduces the “bank” to less than 40 hours.
  • The final regulations state that the first hour taken for earned sick time must be in a minimum one-hour increment, but any time after that first hour may be taken in one-hour increments or the minimum time increment the employer uses to measure absences or time.
  • The final regulations clarify that if an employer must hire a replacement or call in another employee due to an employee’s use of sick time, the employer may require the employee who is on leave to use an equal number of hours of sick time that the replacement employee works, up to a full shift. If the absent employee does not have enough paid sick time to cover that entire amount, the employer must provide unpaid time off for the remainder.
  • The final regulations include several provisions that protect employers and are designed to minimize employee abuse of sick time. Under these provisions:
    • sick time may not be used at any time that the employee is not scheduled to be at work
    • an employee may not use earned sick time as an excuse to be late for work unless the absence was authorized under the law
    • an employee may not accept a specific shift assignment with the intention to call out sick for all or part of the shift
    • employers may discipline employees for misuse of sick leave if they engage in fraud or abuse inconsistent with leave allowable under the law
    • employers may discipline employees if they engage in a “clear” pattern of taking sick leave on days before or after a weekend, vacation time or holidays, unless employees provide verification of authorized use.
  • The regulations are unclear on what type of verification may be required. (The regulations also allow employers to require “verification” in this circumstance, though the nature of that verification is unclear.)
  • The final regulations create a method of identifying employer size for purposes of determining whether earned time is paid or unpaid. Under this method, the size of an employer is determined by:
    • calculating the average number of employees from a prior “benefit” year – which is usually a calendar year but may be a fiscal, tax or other year period used by the employer – to determine whether the employer had 11 or more employees, therefore triggering employers’ paid sick time obligation
    • including temporary employees provided by a staffing firm in the calculation of the number of employees
    • requiring that an employer count all employees, regardless of whether they are in or outside of Massachusetts, eligible for earned sick time or full-time, part-time, seasonal or temporary.
  • The final regulations permit relatively stringent notice obligations on employees. Specifically, employees may be required to provide notice of the duration of the leave for a multiday absence if known or if not known, daily notice of the leave, unless circumstances make providing such notice unreasonable. In addition, employers may implement policies that require seven days’ advanced written notice for a foreseeable or prescheduled use of sick time, provided that such a policy does not apply if the employee learns of the need to be absent in a shorter period.
  • The regulations allow an employer to require medical (or similar) certification of leave in a broader range of circumstances. In particular, the final regulations now allow employers to require documentation from a healthcare provider (or other qualifying documentation related to domestic violence issues) of the need for leave under the following conditions:
    • the leave exceeds 24 or more consecutively scheduled work hours
    • the leave exceeds three consecutive days of scheduled work (even if the scheduled work period is less than 24 hours)
    • the leave occurs after four unforeseeable and undocumented absences within a three-month period (three such absences if the employee is age 17 or younger)
    • the leave occurs within the two weeks prior to an employee’s scheduled termination of employment (except for temporary workers).
  • The regulations allow employers to require employees to provide verification that they are using sick time for a purpose permitted by law (but not require any detail about the nature of the reasons for the leave), for any increment of sick leave used. The attorney general suggests use of its model form for this purpose.
  • The regulations allow employers to recoup paid earned sick time from an employee who fails to comply without justification with documentation requirements. Employers that intend to recoup sick time must notify employees of this practice in their policy.
  • The regulations allow employers to require fitness-for-duty certifications if they are “customarily required,” if they are consistent with industry practice or state or federal safety requirements and if reasonable safety concerns exist regarding the employee’s ability to perform duties.
  • Employers may provide a lump sum of 40 hours of leave to all employees at the beginning of each year; and if an employer does so, it need not track accrual or allow rollover. Notably, this provision applies to all employees (whether full-time, part-time, etc.) and does not appear to allow employers to prorate the 40-hour lump sum based on part-time status.
  • The regulations permit employers that have unlimited sick time policies to not track accrual or allow any rollover.
  • Employers that provide other forms of PTO or vacation time are not required to provide additional paid sick time if employees can use the PTO or vacation time for statutory sick leave on the same terms and conditions provided under the sick leave law. If an employee exhausts the time by using it for purposes other than sick leave (i.e., vacation or PTO), the employer need not grant the employee additional sick time, provided it has given employees notice that additional sick time will not be granted in such circumstances.
  • The final regulations require employers to provide notice to employees, as follows:
    • employers must post the notice provided by the attorney general in a conspicuous place in the workplace
    • employers must either provide a copy of that notice to each employee (in hard or electronic copy) or include the employer’s policy on earned sick time or a permissible substitute plan in an employee handbook or manual.

The paid sick leave law and its implementing regulations do not address a collateral but important issue: whether accrued but unused paid sick time counts as “wages” for purposes of the Massachusetts Wage Act. The issue is an important one, because under the Wage Act, an employer who fails to pay “wages” is subject to strict liability, as well as mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees, in a civil action for recovery of the unpaid wages and may also be subject to criminal liability. On January 29, 2018, however, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a decision (Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority) in which it held that sick pay does not qualify as “wages” for purposes of the Wage Act. Accordingly, employers who neglect to pay an employee for accrued but unused sick time upon the termination of his or her employment would not be subject to mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees in a suit brought by the employee to recover the value of that sick time – although the employee would likely be entitled to recover the value of the sick time itself.

In sum, a Massachusetts employer should ensure that its sick leave policy complies with the requirements of the sick leave law and regulations and should otherwise tailor its sick leave policy to the needs of the company and the nature of its workforce. In addition to the requirements of the law, a few basic guidelines apply to all such policies and procedures manuals:

  • The policy should explicitly state how much leave is given to each classification of employee and how the leave is managed.
  • The policy should make clear whether the leave will be paid or unpaid (consistent with the requirements of the law) and should describe any notice requirements.
  • The sick leave policy must conform to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For instance, the sick leave policy should not state that employees will be terminated automatically for exceeding the permissible number of sick days, because both the ADA and the FMLA may require that an employer give an employee additional unpaid time off to recover from a disability or a serious health condition.

Jury duty and court appearances

Massachusetts law provides a number of protections to employees performing jury duty or attending court as a witness in a criminal action.

Jury duty protections

Employees may not be discharged from or deprived of employment because of their attendance or service as a juror in any court. Employers that discharge an employee as a result of his or her jury service may be prosecuted and punished for contempt of court.

In addition, employers may not harass, threaten or coerce employees because the employee receives a juror summons, performs any obligation of jury duty or exercises any rights under the Massachusetts jury duty laws. Employers cannot impose compulsory work assignments on employees attending or performing jury duty. Further, employers cannot engage in any other intentional act that would substantially interfere with the availability, effectiveness, attentiveness or peace of mind of the employee during the performance of his or her jury duty. Violation of this law constitutes a crime and an employer who violates it may be subject to substantial fines. The employer may also be liable to the employee in a civil lawsuit for any monetary damages and injunctive relief as appropriate, as well as treble damages and attorneys’ fees in some situations.

Jury duty pay

Employers must pay employees their regular wages for the first three days (or parts of those days) of jury duty. This applies to all “regular” employees, including part-time, temporary or casual employees, as long as their employment hours may be reasonably determined. After the three days, employees will be paid by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at a rate of $50 per day; and it is in the employer’s discretion whether to pay any difference between that stipend and the employee’s regular wages. The court in which the employee is serving as a juror may excuse the employer from paying regular wages for the first three days only if the employer can show extreme financial hardship. Failure to pay regular wages for the first three days of an employee’s jury duty may be prosecuted and punished as contempt of court, and the employer may be liable to the employee in a civil lawsuit and subject to treble damages and attorneys’ fees. The policy and intent behind the Massachusetts law is to place the juror in the same financial position as such juror would have been in were it not for the performance of jury duty.

Victims and witnesses in criminal actions

Employers may not discharge, penalize or threaten to discharge or penalize any employee who is absent from work because of his or her attendance as a witness in a criminal action. Employers violating this rule will be subject to punishment by fine, imprisonment or both. The law only applies with respect to victims and other witnesses in criminal cases, and there is no obligation to pay the employee for the time away from work.

Domestic violence leave

Employers in Massachusetts with 50 or more employees are required to provide up to 15 days of domestic violence leave for its employees. The leave may be taken by employees who have been victims of domestic violence or who have family members that were victims of such. Leave may be used to:

  • Seek or obtain counseling, victim services, medical attention or legal assistance.
  • Secure housing.
  • Obtain a protective order from a court.
  • Appear before a grand jury or a court.
  • Meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official.
  • Attend child custody proceedings.
  • Address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against him or her or a family member.

Such leave does not have to be paid leave, but employees should be free to choose to use accrued vacation, PTO or sick leave. In addition, under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law, employees are able to use their accrued paid sick leave for absences relating to domestic violence.

Military reserve training

Massachusetts law affords all members of organized units of the armed forces ready reserve with up to 17 days of leave per calendar year to fulfill military reserve training requirements. The employee taking leave must provide notice to the employer of the date of departure and return for the training and of the satisfactory completion of the training. On return from the military training leave, the employer must return the employee to his or her previous position or a similar position with the same status, pay and seniority. It is left to the employer’s discretion whether to pay the employee during leave; but the leave must not affect the employee’s normal vacation, sick leave, bonus, advancement or other advantages of employment. Employers failing to comply with the law may be subject to a civil lawsuit by the employee for damages or other equitable relief.

In addition to Massachusetts law for ready reserve leave, employers must ensure compliance with the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which includes additional military leave requirements and prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their military, ready reserve, National Guard or other uniformed service or military status. See Chapter 18: Military leave for more information

Small necessities leave

The Massachusetts Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA) provides small necessities leave to many employees. This leave is separate from that provided by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but it must be offered by employers subject to the FMLA (employers with 50 or more employees) to employees eligible for the FMLA (employees employed for at least 12 months by the employer and who have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period). Such eligible employees are permitted under the SNLA to take a total of 24 hours of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to:

  • participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a son or daughter of the employee, such as parent-teacher conferences or interviews for a new school
  • accompany the son or daughter of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments, such as check-ups or vaccinations
  • accompany an elderly relative of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments or appointments for other professional services related to the elder’s case, such as interviewing at nursing or group homes.

Employers must consistently and uniformly define and measure the 12-month period during which the 24 hours of leave may be taken. Employers may choose to define the period as the calendar year, the fiscal year, the 12-month period following each employee’s anniversary date, the 12-month period following each employee’s first SNLA leave request or a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any leave under the SNLA.

The employee must provide his or her employer with seven days’ notice whenever the need for leave is foreseeable. If the need for leave is unforeseeable, the employee must inform his or her employer as soon as practicable. Employers may require that leave be supported by certification.

Employees do not need to take all 24 hours at once but may take SNLA leave for any number of hours at a time, intermittently, depending on their needs. Employers may require that employees take leave in increments of one hour.

Employees may elect or employers may require employees to use any accrued vacation leave, personal leave or medical or sick leave for the leave taken under the SNLA. Employers are not required to provide pay for SNLA leave beyond the paid leave that the employer already offers.

Employers should notify their employees of their ability under law to take SNLA leave. This is often accomplished by providing the SNLA policy in their employee handbook.

The Massachusetts attorney general is authorized to enforce the SNLA against any employer in violation of the law. Employers may be subject to fines for criminal violation of the SNLA; and employees may institute civil actions for any monetary damages and/or injunctive relief and may be entitled to treble damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

Substitution of paid leave

An employee may elect to use his or her accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave or sick leave during any medical leave period in order to be paid during the leave. Similarly, an employer may require the employee to use such paid leave during the leave period. However, the law does not require that the employer provide paid sick leave or medical leave in any situation in which the employer would not otherwise provide it.

Advance notice

The employee must provide the employer with at least seven days’ notice before the date of the leave when it is foreseeable. If the leave is not foreseeable, the employee must provide notice as is practicable.


The Massachusetts attorney general enforces the SNLA. As a remedy, the court may order that the employer provide the employee with leave and may rule that the employer’s policy is unlawful.