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Massachusetts Contingent Faculty Now Eligible for Earned Sick Time Benefits

Following overwhelming support at the ballot box, new regulations account for educators’ time spent both in and outside the classroom.

BOSTON, MA – For the first time in the Commonwealth’s history, thousands of faculty members at institutions of higher education will be able to care for themselves or a sick loved one without fear of repercussions from their employer. According to new regulations issued by Attorney General Maura Healey, [see Section 33.03(7)(a), final regs], educators will join workers throughout Massachusetts in gaining access to earned sick time beginning today.

“On multiple occasions, I’ve been forced to take my sick child to work with me when she was too ill to be at her own school. I didn’t feel I could cancel my class,” said Bayla Ostrach, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University. “I am relieved to think that I can now stay home, with no repercussions, when my child or I are contagious.”

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a groundbreaking law that grants all Massachusetts workers one hour of earned sick time for every 30 hours worked. But the method of calculating these hours for contingent faculty – who are largely compensated on a per-class basis – required additional consideration. Following extensive conversations with representatives of SEIU Local 509’s FacultyForward initiative, the Attorney General’s Office promulgated regulations that account for two hours of course planning and follow-up outside the classroom for every hour spent on in-class instruction – a 60% increase over existing IRS rules governing “shared responsibility” under the ACA. The new rules take steps toward acknowledging the true workload of contingent faculty, allowing them to accumulate time to care for their families’ health without loss of compensation or other course-scheduling repercussions.

“I’ve delivered back-to-back two-hour lectures when I could barely speak, because the college only schedules one makeup day per semester, which had been filled by a snow day. I’ve played Typhoid Mary in my classroom by infecting students with the flu for the past 15 winters,” said David Kociemba, a lecturer in media studies at Emerson College and Boston University. “All that changes now that contingent faculty are able to earn stick time.”

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To reach affected faculty, email Jason A Stephany or call (617) 286-4430.

SEIU Local 509 represents more than 18,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including more than 3,200 non-tenure track faculty in Greater Boston. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. For more information, visit

Written by LesleyFF