Massachusetts: Sick Leave Not Considered “Wages”

As courts around the country are passing rulings on sick leave cases, a Massachusetts court has ruled that “accrued, but unused, sick leave does not constitute ‘wages’ under the state’s Wage Act”. Under the Wage Act, employers are required to pay exiting employees all wages “on the next pay day following their departure”. If they do not, the company becomes subject to penalties. Employers should review current policies to ensure they are in compliance with state laws regarding payment for unused leave.

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP further explains:

The Wage Act nowhere mentions sick pay, although it does provide that wages include vacation leave payments pursuant to an employer’s agreement (a/k/a policies). Unlike vacation time, which can be used for any reason, the Court noted that sick leave is often “use it or lose it” because it can only be used for specific reasons. Because sick leave is considered lost if it is not used, and because it is not mentioned in the Wage Act, the Court refused to consider sick leave a “wage” under the law.

In Maryland, a new paid minimum sick leave law goes into effect in February 2018, and states that “employers are not required to pay departing employees for accrued, but unused, sick leave”.

For more information on the court decision, please click here.

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