Sick Pay and Vacation Pay

by Juliane Soprano

If I am Terminated, am I Entitled to Sick Pay and Vacation Pay?

Controversy regarding sick pay and vacation pay in Massachusetts causes concern for employees and employers.

In Massachusetts, The Wage Act, G.L. C. 149, requires employers to pay employees’ wages on a weekly or biweekly basis.  If an employee leaves the employment by his/her own choosing s/he is entitled to receive any outstanding wages on the next regularly scheduled payday.  If an employee is terminated from the employment he/she is entitled to receive payment of any wages due on the day of the discharge.

The Wage Act specifically says that “wages” shall include any holiday or vacation pay.  Commissions have also been included under the definition of “wages” so long as the amount due has definitively been determined before the date of termination.   On the other hand, sick time has been excluded from the definition of wages.  Therefore, sick pay is not payable in the event of a termination even if the worker is receiving worker’s compensation at the time of the discharge.

Can I Be Terminated from My Job While on Worker’s Compensation?

There is nothing in the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation law that forbids an employer from terminating your employment while you are out of work collecting worker’s compensation benefits. Depending on where you work, there may be other laws or circumstances which provide you with some protection.  The two most common are the Family Medical Leave Act and a Collective Bargaining/Union Contract.

The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees who have worked at least 1250 hours in a twelve-month period, twelve weeks of unpaid leave.  The drawback is that only employers with 50 or more employees in a 50-mile radius are covered by this law.

If you are part of a union and have a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), otherwise known as a union contract, you may have additional rights to have your position held open for you while you are out on a work-related injury.  Some contracts provide a period of medical leave which encompasses work-related injuries.  Other contracts have specific provisions that grant injured workers additional time to return to work beyond the time of a general medical leave.

For general information and other legal questions.

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