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AIM Submits Comments on Sick-Time Regulations

Posted by Brad MacDougall on Jun 8, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts filed 19 pages of comments to the proposed Earned Sick Time regulations Saturday as Attorney General Maura Healey and the business community continued to discuss a clarification of the “safe harbor” provision for companies that wish to extend existing paid time-off programs to part-time workers.

AG.Maura.HealeyHealey announced on May 17 a six-month transition period for companies with existing paid time-off plans to comply with the new sick-time law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. The safe harbor transition allowed any employer with a paid time-off policy in existence as of May 1 that provides to employees the right to use at least 30 hours of paid time off during the calendar year 2015 to be in compliance with the law from July 1 through January 1, 2016.

Companies seeking the safe harbor were required to extend the leave or paid time off to all employees, both full-time and part-time, but employers have questioned whether part-timers would qualify for the full 30 hours of leave.

AIM has proposed that companies qualify for the six-month transition by extending leave proportionally to part-time employees. So if full-timers qualify for 30 hours of leave, half-time employees would earn 15 hours. Discussions are ongoing, but no final agreement had been reached as of the week-end.

AIM’s formal comments seek to clarify the regulations employers will have to follow under the new law and head off an expected onslaught of lawsuits growing out of inconsistencies in the rules.

“While the safe harbor provision does provide relief, it does not prevent creative attorneys from filing lawsuits.  We are concerned that after July 1 many businesses will be subjected to lawsuits from aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to leverage the commonwealth’s treble damages statute that provides for attorney’s fees under the law,” the comments state.

“AIM believes that like the state’s healthcare and data security laws, the earned sick time law will take time, effort and money to implement properly and responsibly.”

AIM maintains in its comments that many of the proposed earned sick-time regulations are not supported by the statute. 

Specific recommendations include:

  • Change the one-year break-in-service provision to four months to align with federal health care reform.
  • Require employees to explicitly tell employers whether the time off they seek is earned sick time.
  • Allow employers to discipline employees who fail to comply with reasonable documentation requirements.
  • Allow employers to terminate workers who have engaged in fraud and abuse of the earned sick-time law.
  • Count only hours worked in Massachusetts toward the accrual of earned sick time.

AIM’s comments were distilled from thousands of responses and questions posed by employers across Massachusetts. More than 700 companies participated in a recent AIM Webinar explaining the proposed regulations.

Attorney General Healey is expected to issue final regulations later this month.

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Topics: Paid Sick Days, Mandated Paid Sick Days, Attorney General Maura Healey

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