Laws on Employee Leave
Below is an introduction to laws on employee leave in Massachusetts. Note that leave requirements vary from state to state. This page is designed to help farmers ensure that they are adhering to applicable laws, but it is not a legal document and is not exhaustive.
Under Massachusetts law, all employees must be allowed to earn up to 40 hours of sick time per calendar year, accruing sick time at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. For farms with an average of eleven or more employees per pay period over the course of the year (including all seasonal, part-time, or temporary workers) this sick time must be paid time; otherwise it may be unpaid. Employers are required to track the number of hours worked by employees and taken for sick leave, and it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who request sick leave.
Family and Medical Leave
All workers (of all genders) who have been employed for at least three months at a Massachusetts business with six or more employees are entitled to eight weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental leave for purposes of giving birth, caring for a newborn, or adopting a child. If two employees of the same employer request leave for the same child, however, the employees are entitled only to eight weeks of leave combined.
State legislation was passed in 2018 to implement a state-run paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts. This legislation provides for paid, job-protected leave to:
- Receive treatment for a serious medical condition
- Bond with a newborn or newly adopted child
- Care for a family member with a serious medical condition
- Care for a family member injured during military service
- Handle matters arising from a family member’s active duty military service/deployment
Starting in January of 2021, qualifying employees will be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of family leave and/or 20 weeks of medical leave, up to a maximum of 26 weeks total per year.
The paid leave will be funded through a 0.63% payroll tax, which employers will need to begin collecting on July 1, 2019. Employees will be responsible for paying 100% of family leave and 40% of medical leave contributions. Employers with 25 or more employees will be responsible for the remaining 60% of medical leave contributions.
Regulations for implementing the law – which will determine how benefits are processed and contributions are made – will be finalized by March 31, 2019. For more information on the legislation, regulations, and public comment opportunities, see the Department of Family and Medical Leave’s website.
Note that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act also requires businesses that employ 50 or more employees (for each working day of 20 or more weeks during the current or preceding year) to offer employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year for family and medical reasons.
Jury Duty Leave
Under Massachusetts law, all employers must provide employees with leave for jury duty. Leave for employees’ first three days of state juror service must be paid; thereafter, it may be unpaid. Employees must not be required to reschedule jury duty or use vacation, sick or personal days to cover the duration of juror service.
Massachusetts law entitles almost all employees to time off to vote – which may be unpaid – during the first two hours that polls are open.The employee must request such time off in advance in order to be eligible for voting leave.
Small Necessities Leave
Under Massachusetts law, businesses that employ 50 or more employees (for each working day of 20 or more weeks during the current or preceding year) must grant up to 24 hours of “small necessities” leave per year to any worker who has been employed for at least one year at the business and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12-month period. This leave can be used in addition to federal family and medical leave, but an employer can require that an employee use paid sick or vacation leave for such small necessities. Qualifying activities include:
- a child’s school activities
- a child’s routine doctor or dentist appointment, or
- an elder relative’s doctor or dentist appointment or other appointment related to the elder’s care
Domestic Violence Leave
Under Massachusetts law, businesses with 50 or more employees must provide up to 15 days of job-protected leave per year to an employee who is, or whose family member is, a victim of abusive behavior, including domestic violence. This leave can be used to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance; secure housing; obtain a protective order from a court; appear in court or before a grand jury; meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official; or attend child custody proceedings or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.
Under Massachusetts law, an employee who must serve as a witness in a criminal action is entitled to obtain leave for purposes of testifying and cannot be punished for doing so, provided they give notice to their employer.
Leave for Veterans
Under Massachusetts law, veteran employees working for private employers generally must be granted leave to observe Veterans Day and to participate in a Memorial Day exercise, parade, or service that takes place in the veteran’s community of residence.
This webpage was last updated March 2019 and is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture under award 2016-70017-25423, and by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 16FMPPMA0002. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.