Nonprofit 411: Beacon Hill and Voters Expand Leave Laws for Massachusetts Employees

PNNlawBy Daniel F. McCabe, Jr. and Eliza Minsch, Petrucelly, Nadler & Norris, P.C.

Over the past year, several of the Commonwealth’s employee leave laws have been expanded to provide greater rights for workers. What follows is a summary of these new laws so you can familiarize yourself with their basic requirements and keep your organization up-to-date.


Domestic Violence Leave Act

On August 8, 2014, the Domestic Violence Leave Act (“DVLA”), M.G.L. c. 149, § 52E, was enacted and took effect immediately. Under the DVLA, employers with 50 or more employees must provide qualifying employees up to 15 days of leave in any 12 month period for reasons related to domestic violence. To be a “qualifying employee” an employee must be a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or kidnapping or have a family member who is a victim. Leave may be used to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services, or legal assistance, secure housing, or obtain a protective order from a court. Employers do not have to pay for leave taken under the DVLA.

Employers subject to the DVLA cannot discharge or otherwise discriminate against employees for exercising their rights under the law. Upon returning from leave, employees are entitled to be restored to their original jobs or equivalent positions.


Sick Leave Law

On November 4, 2014, Massachusetts voters approved Ballot Question 4, which requires earned sick time for employees. Under the Sick Leave Law, employees will earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick time per calendar year. For employers with 11 or more employees, sick time must be paid. Employers with fewer than 11 employees must still provide sick time, except that time may be unpaid.

Employees will be able to begin using sick time on the 90th day after starting employment, and then thereafter as it accrues. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year. However, unlike vacation time, employers are not required to pay unused earned sick time when an employee separates from employment.

The Sick Leave Law takes effect on July 1, 2015.


Parental Leave Act

On January 7, 2015, the Parental Leave Act (“PLA”), M.G.L. c. 149, § 105D, was signed into law. The PLA amends the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act to require that employers provide leave for certain parental purposes to eligible full-time employees regardless of gender. The PLA applies to employers with 6 or more employees and provides that employees must be given 8 weeks of leave for the birth, adoption, or placement of a child with the employee pursuant to a court order. If parents of a child work for the same employer, they are entitled to a total combined period of 8 weeks between them, rather than separate 8 week leave periods for each parent.

Parental leave can be paid or unpaid at the employer’s discretion. If an employee’s parental leave is unpaid, the employee may choose to use his or her accrued paid vacation or sick time, however, an employer may not require that an employee do so.

For more information or advice on these new laws, please feel free to contact our office to speak with one of our attorneys. We also invite you to visit our website at