MASSACHUSETTS COVID-19 EMERGENCY PAID SICK TIME EXTENDED

as of October 21, 2021

At the end of September 2021, Governor Baker signed legislation extending, until April 1, 2022, the state mandate requiring employers to provide employees with additional paid time off for certain COVID-19 related reasons.

Full-time employees are entitled to up to a week (40 hours) of paid time off and part-time employees are entitled to a pro-rated amount based on their work schedules. The maximum amount of pay an employer is required to pay an employee for this paid time off (and for which the employer can seek reimbursement from a state fund) is $850 per employee.

Notably, this law applies to both private and public sector employers in Massachusetts, including municipalities (but excluding the federal government).

Reasons for Leave

Paid time off must be provided to employees who are unable to work for the following reasons:

(1) An employee’s need to:

(a) Self isolate and care for themselves because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
(b) Obtain a medical treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
(c) Obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccination.

(2) An employee’s need to care for a family member who:

(a) Must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis;
(b) Needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
(c) Is obtaining an immunization related to COVID-19 or recovering from the immunization.

(3) A quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, or a health care provider;

(4) An employee’s need to care for a family member due to a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the family member by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, the family member’s employer, or a health care provider; or

(5) An employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.

The definition of “family member” in this law is the same as the Massachusetts Paid Family & Medical Leave Act and includes an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling, a parent of a spouse or domestic partner of the employee, or a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when such employee was a minor child.

Amount of Time Off

Employees who work 40 or more hours per week are entitled to 40 hours of COVID-19 emergency paid sick time. Employees who regularly work fewer than 40 hours per week are entitled to an amount of COVID-19 emergency paid sick time that is equal to the average number of hours the employee works per week. For employees with work schedules that vary from week to week, the employer must provide time off equal to the employee’s average weekly hours over the last six months.

Employees may use the emergency paid sick time intermittently, but they are not entitled to more than the 40 hours provided. An employer cannot require an employee to use other accrued paid time off (such as regular sick time, vacation, or PTO) prior to using emergency paid sick time if the employee has a qualifying reason for using the emergency paid sick time. However, if an employer is otherwise providing temporary COVID-specific leave, that leave program and leave under the Massachusetts statute may run concurrently on or after May 28, so long as the state mandate is met in full.

Reimbursement of Payment & Documentation

Employers can seek reimbursement for emergency paid sick time from a fund known as the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund, administered by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. This reimbursement is available until the state fund is exhausted.

Any employer that wants to seek reimbursement must require employees to request COVID-19 emergency paid sick time in writing and provide the following information for all reimbursement requests:

(1) Employee’s name;
(2) The date(s) of leave;
(3) A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
(4) A statement that because of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is unable to work or telework.

For leave requests based on a quarantine order or self-isolation advice, the employee must also provide:

(1) The name of the governmental entity ordering the quarantine or the health care provider recommending self-isolation; and
(2) If the person subject to quarantine or self-isolation is not the employee, that person’s name and relation to the employee.

Employers should also collect and retain the following information relevant to the reimbursement process:

(1) The employee’s social security number or tax identification number;
(2) The employer’s identification number;
(3) The length of the leave (in hours) and wages paid during that time that are not otherwise eligible for federal tax credits and are not otherwise paid under any other government program or law;
(4) Benefits applicable to the employee taking leave; and
(5) The number of hours in the employee’s regular schedule or, if the employee works a variable schedule, the average weekly hours over the last six months.

Notice Posting

The Executive Office of Labor & Workforce Development has issued a notice form (https://www.mass.gov/doc/massachusetts-covid-19-emergency-paid-sick-leave-notice-to-employees/download) for employers to post in a conspicuous location accessible to employees. For employers that do not maintain a physical workplace, or an employee works remotely, the employer must send the notice electronically or on a web-based posting platform.

No Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from interfering with an employee’s ability to take emergency paid sick time or taking any adverse action against an employee for use of the sick time.

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Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP can help you address these recent developments. If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP
99 High Street
Boston, MA 02110
617-542-6789 phone
617-340-8587 fax

 

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