The Office of the Attorney General is able to take both criminal and civil enforcement actions against employers who violate certain laws. These include:
- Not paying the required minimum wage
- Not paying wages as required
- Not paying required prevailing wages on a public works project
- Not paying the overtime as required
- Retaliating against an employee for asserting his or her rights
- Misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor
- Improperly taking any part of an employee's tips
- Not following the laws and rules for payroll records
- Not following the child labor laws
These violations may result in an enforcement action even if an employer did not know the law. The Attorney General is able to enforce these laws regardless of a worker’s immigration status.
The Attorney General’s Office may take enforcement action against a business that violates the law as well as its individual owners and operators or agents having the management of the business in most situations.
The Attorney General may issue civil citations to employers for most violations of the Massachusetts wage and hour laws.
The law allows maximum penalties that range from $7,500 to $25,000 per violation, depending on whether it is the first time an employer has been cited for a violation. A penalty for a first offense cannot be more than $15,000 for an intentional violation, or more than $7,500 for an unintentional violation.
Each failure to comply with a law during a pay period may be considered a separate violation.
When a citation is issued, the employer has 21 days to:
- Pay restitution in the amount of any unpaid wages listed on the citation
- Pay any penalties ordered by the citation
- Stop violating the wage and hour laws
For a list of civil citations issued by the Attorney General’s office, please visit Fair Labor Division Enforcement.
An employer may also appeal a civil citation within 10 days of receipt of the citation by sending notice to both the Division of Administrative Law Appeals (DALA) and the Attorney General's Office.
If an Employer Does Not Comply With a Citation
If an employer does not pay as directed by the citation or appeal in time:
- The Attorney General's Office can place a Department of Revenue tax lien on the employer's property, which could result in additional collections activity pursuant to M.G.L. c. 62C.
To remove a tax lien, the employer must contact the Department of Revenue and pay all citations in full, plus 18% interest.
More information about Department of Revenue collections is available here.
- The employer will be barred from public works contracting for one year, if the violation involved the prevailing wage laws.
- Local ordinances may prevent the employer from contracting with certain cities and towns or may affect the employer's eligibility for licenses or permits.
- The Attorney General's Office could decide to take criminal enforcement action.
For violations of the minimum wage and overtime laws, the Attorney General may receive permission from a worker and bring a private civil action on behalf of the worker (and other workers). If the Attorney General wins in Civil Court, the employer is required to pay triple damages (3 times the wages owed) to the worker(s), court costs and attorney’s fees.
The Attorney General may also enforce many of these laws criminally. Employers who are found to have violated these laws in criminal court may be required to pay up to $50,000 in penalties and be imprisoned for up to 2 years for each violation. The court may also order the employer to pay restitution to workers.