Generally, for every 6 consecutive hours an employee works in Massachusetts, they are entitled to a 30-minute break.
This break can be paid or unpaid, depending on the circumstances under which it is taken. Legally, if the employee is required to remain on the premises during their break, then their employer must pay them for this time, even if they don’t carry out any work. However, if the employee is allowed to leave the premises, and performs no work or work-related duties during the break, then their employer does not have to pay them. If an employee chooses not to take a break, their employer must pay them for all time worked, i.e. if an employee works through their break voluntarily, they are legally entitled to their usual wage for this time.
This law does not apply to employees who work in establishments where the nature of the work is ongoing, such as factories, mills, and letter presses. It should be noted, however, that employees cannot legally be required to work without a break if their health or well being is at risk.
In Massachusetts, employers do not legally have to give their staff any holidays. However, many employers do choose to offer paid or unpaid vacation leave.
Employers choosing to offer holidays to their employees must have an established policy in place, outlining the vacation leave that their employees can take, and they are legally bound by this policy.
If an employee leaves a company that offers vacation benefits, their employer must pay them for any earned vacation leave.
Employers can limit the amount of vacation leave that their staff can earn, and the length of time they can save their earned leave up for, i.e. employers can implement a policy whereby if an employee hasn’t used their earned leave by a certain date, they will lose it and have to start re-earning leave.
Jury Duty Leave
Employees serving jury duty are entitled to be paid their usual wage for the first three days that they perform this duty, provided that they are regular employees, i.e. they have been working with a reasonably regular pattern for the same employer for at least three months.
Generally, employers are required to pay their employees this entitlement, or, in the case of self-employed people, to pay themselves. However, if the court rules that this payment would place a cute financial strain on the employer or self-employed person, then the state must pay the person serving jury duty for the first three days of their service, up to $50 per day.
It is illegal for an employer to punish their employees in any way for serving jury duty. Additionally, an employer must not put any pressure on an employee during their jury duty service that might have a negative effect on their ability to perform their duty.
In Massachusetts, whether or not an employee is entitled to leave from work in order to vote depends on the industry they work in. People employed in mechanics, manufacturing and retail are entitled to voting leave, meaning that on election or polling days, they do not have to be at work for the first two hours after the polls open. However, if these employees decide to take this voting leave, they must request it from their employer in advance of the election or vote.
Employees working in all other industries in Massachusetts are not entitled to voting leave.
As with vacation leave, employers in Massachusetts do not have to give their employees bereavement leave. However, if they choose to give their employees bereavement leave, or leave to attend a funeral when someone close to them dies, they should have an established bereavement leave policy in place, and ensure they adhere to it on all occasions when their employees are bereaved.
For every 30 hours worked, all employees in Massachusetts accrue 1 hour of sick leave. The maximum amount of sick leave an employee can build up in 1 year is 40 hours. Employees can carry earned sick leave over from one year to the next, up to 40 hours, however, they cannot take more than 40 hours off work as sick leave in one calendar year.
Whether an employee is entitled to be paid for sick leave depends on the size of company they work for. Employers with 11 or more employees must pay their employees their usual wage for any and all sick leave taken. However, employers of less than 11 employees do not have to pay their employees for sick leave.
Legally, an employer cannot ask their employee for the reason for their sick leave, however, if the employee takes more than 24 scheduled work hours as sick leave, their employer can ask them to provide a declaration from a medical professional stating that their absence is/was necessary.
There are a number of scenarios in which an employee is entitled to take sick leave. The first, and most obvious, is to attend to or recover from their own physical or mental injury or illness. The second is to attend to the mental or physical injury or illness of their parent, child, husband, wife, or parent-in-law. This can include caring for them and/or taking/accompanying them to medical appointments. The third is to attend medical appointments, both routine and non-routine. Finally, the fourth is to attend to the effects of domestic violence, including both the physical and emotional or psychological effects.
An employee should inform their employer of their need to take sick leave as soon as possible. This means that for planned sick leave, for example for a planned medical appointment or procedure, an employee should inform their employer in advance of the appointment. In the case of unplanned sick leave, the employee should inform their employer as soon as they are aware of the need to be absent from work.
An employer cannot punish their employees in any way for taking sick leave, and when an employee takes sick leave, their employer cannot ask them to make up the time they took off work. However, if the employee wishes to, the employer and employee can come to an arrangement whereby they make up the time taken off as time leave, so as not to use up their accrued sick leave.
The only exceptions to the Massachusetts sick leave entitlement laws, as outlined above, are the United Stated Government, and cities, towns and local public employers such as educational institutions, unless the sick leave laws are adopted by vote or appropriation by the relevant governing body.