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Massachusetts workers can earn sick time!

Produced by Greater Boston Legal Services
Reviewed April, 2022

How much sick time can I use?

Your employer must give you at least 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work, up to 40 hours of sick time each year. You can take all the sick time your employer gives you. Your employer can choose to give you more sick time.

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 unpaid sick time each year.

When can I use my sick time?

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

You can use sick time to:

  • Recover from illness 

  • go to medical appointments

  • Care for a sick child or family member or 

  • Bring  a sick child or family member to a medical appointment

  • Deal with the effects of domestic violence. You may use sick time  to find housing, go to court, stay with a friend, take time to heal, or talk with an advocate.

If you do not use all your sick time in a year, you can carry forward the hours you did not use to the next year. 

Your employer cannot make you work extra hours to make up for your sick time. They cannot make you find a replacement worker to cover your shift. If you know you are going to need sick time, you must try to let your employer know in advance.  It must be a “good faith effort” to tell your employer.

What if my employer already has a sick time policy?

If your employer has a better sick time policy than this law, that is OK.  This law is the minimum sick time policy your employer must offer.

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 can get 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?

You earn sick time and you have the right to use it if you work:

  • part time, 

  • full time, or 

  • are a temporary worker.

What if I am an independent contractor?

Many employers tell workers they are independent contractors even though they are really employees. 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 earn may depend on your employment “classification.” Check the rules with your human resources department.

All Massachusetts government workers 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.

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