Guide Breaks and time off

Most employers in Massachusetts must allow eligible workers to take meal breaks or be absent from work for certain reasons. Workers who believe their rights were violated may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division.

Meal breaks

30 minutes for each 6 hours of work

Employees working more than 6 hours get a meal break

Workers have a right to at least a 30-minute meal break for each 6 hours worked in a calendar day. During their meal break, workers must be free of all duties and free to leave the workplace. This break may be unpaid. Employers may require workers to take their meal breaks.

Employees may agree to work through their meal breaks, but they must be paid

If, at the request of the employer, a worker agrees to work or stay at the workplace during the meal break, the worker must be paid for that time.

Meal breaks may be used for prayer or other activities

The meal break is the worker's free time. Workers must be allowed to pray during their meal breaks.

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Earned sick time

Most workers in Massachusetts have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time per year to take care of themselves and their families.

Vacation

Vacation payments are wages. Employers who offer vacation should have clear, written vacation policies. They should give each worker a copy of the policy when the worker is hired and ask the worker to acknowledge in writing that the worker understands the policy.

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Small necessities leave

Workers may have the right to take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave every 12 months for:

  • a child's school activities,
  • a child's doctor or dentist appointment, or
  • an elder relative's doctor or dentist appointment or other appointment related to the elder's care.

Workers can receive this leave if the employer has 50 or more employees, and if the worker has worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer in the last 12 months.

Note: Workers have the right to this leave in addition to the 12 weeks allowed by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

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Domestic violence and abusive situation leave

Employers with 50 or more employees must allow qualifying workers up to 15 days of paid or unpaid leave for these purposes:

  • seeking or obtaining medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance;
  • securing housing;
  • obtaining a protective order from a court;
  • appearing in court or before a grand jury;
  • meeting with a district attorney or other law enforcement official;
  • attending child custody proceedings; or
  • addressing other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.

To qualify, the worker must be a paid employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or kidnapping, or who has a family member who is a victim.

The Attorney General’s Office enforces these rules and may seek an injunction or other equitable relief to enforce the law.

Additional Resources

Day of rest

Most employers must allow a worker to have one day off after 6 consecutive days of work. This day off must include an unbroken period between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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Time off to vote

Under Massachusetts law, employers must give a worker up to two hours off to vote if the worker requests it. The worker does not have to be paid for this time but should be allowed a two-hour absence after the opening of the polls in the worker's voting precinct.

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Veterans Day and Memorial Day

Veterans may be entitled to paid or unpaid leave from work on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Massachusetts Parental Leave Law

Most Massachusetts workers have a right to take up to 8 weeks of job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This law is enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Employers may also have to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and nursing workers.

Additional Resources

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Under federal law, most employers with 50 or more employees have to allow up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. This law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.

FMLA may be used for the following reasons:

  • the birth and care of the worker’s newborn child
  • placement a son or daughter with the worker for adoption or foster care
  • care of an immediate family member (a spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
  • medical leave when the worker is unable to work because of a serious health condition

Workers can file complaints under FMLA with the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, or sue their employers in court.

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