Massachusetts workers can earn sick time!

Produced by Attorney Cortnay Varela, Americorps Member – MassLegalHelp with Attorney Elizabeth Toulan, Family Economic Initiative Coordinator – Greater Boston Legal Services
Reviewed March 2019 - Greater Boston Legal Services

How much sick time can I get?

You can earn up to 40 hours of sick time each year. You can use sick time to care for yourself, a sick family member or a spouse. You can also use the sick time to deal with the effects of domestic violence. You may need it to find housing, go to court, stay with a friend, take time to heal, or talk with an advocate.

Is it paid sick time?

Your employer must pay your sick time if they have 11 or more workers. The 11 workers do not have to be full-time, they can work part time, or be temporary.

Your employer does not have to pay your sick time if they have less than 11 workers. But you still have a right to earn 40 hours of sick time each year.

How does it work?

You earn 1 hour of sick time every 30 hours you work.

You begin to earn these hours any time after July 1, 2015.

You can begin to use your sick time 90 days after you start your job.

Your employer only has to give you up to 40 hours of earned sick time each year. If do not use all your sick time in the year, you can carry forward the hours you did not use to the next year. But you can only use 40 hours of sick time in a year.

Your employer cannot make you work extra hours to make up for your sick time. They cannot make you find a replacement worker for while you are out. If you know you are going to need sick time, you must make a good faith effort to let your employer know in advance.

What if my employer already has a sick time policy?

If your employer has a better sick time policy than this law, you have the right to everything in this law, as well as what your employer’s policy offers.

What if my employer says I cannot get sick time?

You have the right to the sick time you earn. It is illegal for your employer to punish you or threaten your job in any way because you:

  • use your earned sick time,
  • are defending your right to sick time, or
  • are standing up for other workers.

If your employer does not let you use the sick time you earn, or retaliates against you:

If you prove your case in court, you have the right to 3 times the amount of sick time owed, plus court costs and attorney’s fees. See Defending Your Rights.

What if I work part time?

It does not matter if you work part time, full time, or you are a temporary worker – you earn sick time and you have the right to use it.

What if I am an independent contractor?

Many workers who are told they are independent contractors are not. See Am I an independent contractor? You can also call the MA Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, (617) 727-3465 to find out if you can earn sick time.

You may have other rights. See Defending Your Rights.

What if I work for the federal, state, or local government?

The federal government has its own rules about sick time. The sick time you can earn may depend on your employment “classification.” Check the rules with your human resources department.

All Massachusetts government workers are covered by the Massachusetts sick time law. You can earn up to 40 hours paid sick time each year.

If you work for a city or town, ask your union or local workers’ alliance about sick time.

I have other questions. Who can I ask?

See the MA Attorney General’s page Earned Sick Time, and the Earned Sick Time Notice.

Call the MA Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, (617) 727-3465.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
9am and 4pm