Workers have the right to be paid for all the time that they work and to be paid on time. They must get paystubs and be able to see their employer's record of their hours and pay. Workers who think their rights were violated can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division. They can file a complaint even if they agreed to work for less than the law requires or agreed not to sue their employers.
Pay and recordkeeping
Table of Contents
In Massachusetts, all workers are presumed to be employees, and almost all workers must be paid at least the minimum wage.
For most employees, the minimum wage is:
|January 1, 2019||$12.00 per hour|
|January 1, 2020||$12.75 per hour|
|January 1, 2021||$13.50 per hour|
|January 1, 2022||$14.25 per hour|
|January 1, 2023||$15.00 per hour|
Service employees who earn tips must earn at least the minimum wage. In some circumstances, the employer may pay these workers the service rate (see rates below). However, the hourly tips, plus the hourly service rate, must add up to at least the minimum wage. If the service rate plus tips does not add up to at least the hourly minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.
The minimum wage for agricultural workers is $8.00 per hour.
Additional Resources for Minimum wage
Employers may not keep workers’ tips given by a patron to a wait staff employee, service employee, or service bartender. Employers are also explicitly forbidden from distributing tips to anyone who is not a wait staff or service employee or service bartender. This includes employers, employees with managerial responsibility on a given day, and employees not serving patrons directly.
Some workers earn an hourly service rate, plus tips.
|Effective||Service Rate||Minimum Wage|
|January 1, 2019||$4.35 per hour||$12.00 per hour|
|January 1, 2020||$4.95 per hour||$12.75 per hour|
|January 1, 2021||$5.55 per hour||$13.50 per hour|
|January 1, 2022||$6.15 per hour||$14.25 per hour|
|January 1, 2023||$6.75 per hour||$15.00 per hour|
An employer can pay the hourly “service rate,” per hour, to a worker if:
- the employer informs the worker in writing that they will be paid the service rate
- the worker makes more than $20 a month in tips, and
- the hourly tips plus the hourly service rate add up to the minimum wage
Note: If the service rate plus tips does not add up to at least the minimum wage, the employer must pay the difference.
Effective January 1, 2019, employers must calculate the difference between the service rate and earned tips at the completion of each shift worked by the employee to ensure the employee earned at least the minimum wage for all hours worked when the service rate and earned tips are added together. The employer is required to add any amount due to the employee’s next pay check.
- In this example, assume that the minimum wage is $13.50 per hour and the service rate is $5.55 per hour
- A restaurant server works one 5-hour shift on Tuesday and one 5-hour shift on Saturday during the same pay week
- On Tuesday, the slow day, the employee earns $27.75 in service rate wages + $25.00 in tips for a total earned of $52.75
- The law requires that the employee receive at least $67.50 for the shift (5 hours x $13.50 minimum wage rate)
- The employer is required to add $14.75 to the employee’s next paycheck to cover the differential for this shift
- On Saturday, the busy day, the employee earns $27.75 in service rate wages + $140 in tips for a total earned of $167.75. Since this total exceeds the $13.50 per hour minimum wage rate for each hour worked, the employer is not required to add any amount to the employee’s next paycheck for this shift.
- Total gross wages to be paid to this employee for this pay week = $235.25
Tip pooling and service charges
Tip pooling is allowed, but only wait staff, service bartenders, and other service employees can take part. Even if managers and supervisors help to serve customers, they cannot share in a tip pool on a day when they have any managerial responsibilities.
If an employer chooses to add a service charge or tip (as defined by the law) to a bill, the employer must distribute the money in proportion to the work done by those employees.
Additional Resources for Tips
Most employees who work more than 40 hours in any week must be paid overtime. Overtime pay is at least 1.5 × the regular rate of pay for each hour over 40 hours.
For some employees who are paid at the “service rate,” overtime rate is 1.5 × the basic minimum wage, not the service rate. Different rules may apply to tipped employees under federal law.
Some jobs and workplaces are exempt from overtime
Some jobs and workplaces are not required to pay overtime under state law. However, an employee who does not have a right to overtime under state law may have a right to overtime under federal law. The most worker-protective law applies. For a complete list of state overtime exemptions, see M.G.L. c. 151, § 1A, or call our Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division at (617) 727-3465. For questions about federal overtime law, visit the U.S. Department of Labor's overtime page.
Additional Resources for Overtime
Payment of wages
Workers have a right to their wages, including tips, earned vacation pay, promised holiday pay, and earned commissions that are definitely determined, due and payable. A worker’s pay (or wages) must include payment for all hours worked.
Hourly workers must be paid every week or every other week (bi-weekly). The deadline to pay depends on how many days an employee worked during one calendar week.
Number of Days Worked
Deadline to Pay
|5-6 days||6 days after pay period ends|
|1-4 days OR 7 days||7 days after pay period ends|
Workers who quit their jobs must be paid in full on the next regular payday or by the first Saturday after they quit (if there is no regular payday). Workers who are fired or laid off must be paid in full on their last day of work.
Employers may require workers to be paid their wages through direct deposit, however, employers cannot choose the financial institution where workers will receive the funds.
Workers cannot be charged a fee to have access to their pay.
Hours worked or “working time” includes:
- all time that a worker must be on duty at the employer’s worksite or other location,
- any time worked before or after the normal shift to complete the work, and
- travel time during the work day (but not ordinary commuting time between home and work).
An employer cannot deduct money from a worker’s pay unless the law allows it (such as wage withholding taxes), or the worker asked for a deduction to be made for his or her own benefit (such as to put money aside in the worker's savings account).
An employer cannot take money from a worker's pay for the employer’s ordinary business costs (for example: supplies, materials or tools needed for the worker's job).
The law also puts limits on when and how much money an employer can take from a worker's pay for housing and meals the employer gives to the worker. And, an employer who requires a worker to buy or rent a uniform must pay for the uniform, or promptly refund the actual costs to the worker.
An employee of a for-profit employer must be paid at least minimum wage for at least 3 hours if she or he:
- is scheduled to work 3 or more hours,
- reports to work on time, and
- is sent home after working less than 3 hours.
Additional Resources for Payment of wages
Employers must keep payroll records for 3 years. Payroll records include the worker’s name, address, job/occupation, amount paid each pay period, and hours worked (each day and week).
Workers have the right to see their own payroll records at reasonable times and places.
Employers must give workers a statement with their pay that says:
- the name of the employer and worker
- the date of payment (month, day and year)
- the number of hours worked during the pay period
- the hourly rate
- all deductions and increases made during the pay period.
Employers may not charge workers for paystubs. Paystubs may be given out electronically as long as the employer provides a way for the worker to print out the information for free.
A personnel record is a record kept by an employer that may affect a worker's qualifications for employment, promotion, transfer, additional compensation, or disciplinary action. Employers who keep personnel records must allow workers to review their own personnel records or receive a copy of their personnel files within five business days of a written request.
Employers must also notify workers when adding information to the personnel record that could negatively affect an worker's employment. If a worker disagrees with information contained in the personnel file, the worker has the right to submit a written statement that would need to be included whenever the personnel record is given to another person.
Earned sick time recordkeeping
The Earned Sick Time Law requires employers to track the accrual and use of earned sick time in most circumstances.
Recordkeeping for domestic workers
The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights requires some additional recordkeeping, including timesheets and employment agreements. There are also other rights and requirements for domestic workers.
Additional Resources for Records
Working on Sundays and holidays ("Blue Laws")
The Massachusetts Blue Laws control hours of operation for certain businesses and require some businesses to pay extra compensation (known as "premium pay") on Sundays and some legal holidays.
These laws are enforced by the Attorney General's Office. The Department of Labor Standards has authority over the statewide approval of local permits allowing businesses to open on Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas when they otherwise could not open for some or all hours on those days. If you have questions about the statewide approval process, please contact the Department of Labor Standards’ Minimum Wage Program at (617) 626-6952.
The Attorney General’s Office enforces the premium pay requirements when alcoholic beverage retailers may legally operate. However, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission regulates when such businesses may be open. If you have questions about when alcoholic beverage retailers may be open, please contact the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission at (617) 727-3040.