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Massachusetts law about wages

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on payment of wages.
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Massachusetts laws

MGL c.149 s.148 Weekly Wage Law. Provides details of how wages must be paid. Includes the following about employees who leave their employment:

"any employee leaving his employment shall be paid in full on the following regular pay day, and, in the absence of a regular pay day, on the following Saturday; and any employee discharged from such employment shall be paid in full on the day of his discharge..."

MGL c.149, s.150 Provides for mandatory triple damages for weekly wage law violations.

MGL c.149, s.152A Service Charges and Tips

St.2016, c.177 An Act to Establish Pay Equity

St.2018, c.121 Eliminates time and a half pay for Sundays and holidays over time. 

Pay rate for Sundays and holidays
Date Rate of pay
Currently 1.5 times regular pay "time and a half"
January 1, 2019 1.4 times regular pay
January 1, 2020 1.3 times regular pay
January 1, 2021 1.2 times regular pay
January 1, 2022 1.1 times regular pay
January 1, 2023 regular pay

Forms

Nonpayment of Wage and Workplace Complaint Form, Mass. Attorney General

Selected cases

Blake v. CRNC Operating, LLC, 2015 Mass. App. Div. 156 (2015)
A non-payment of wages claim may be brought in Small Claims Court when the amount claimed is up to $7000, even though the amount, when trebled, would exceed the $7000 limit.

Camara v. Attorney General, 458 Mass. 756 (2011)
Wage Set-Offs. The employer violated the Wage Act by implementing a policy in " which a worker found by ABC to be at fault in an accident involving company trucks may agree to a deduction from earned wages in lieu of discipline." " An arrangement whereby ABC serves as the sole arbiter, making a unilateral assessment of liability as well as amount of damages with no role for an independent decision maker, much less a court, and, apparently, not even an opportunity for an employee to challenge the result within the company, does not amount to 'a clear and established debt owed to the employer by the employee.'"

Crocker v. Townsend Oil Co, 464 Mass. 1 (2012)
Release of Wage Act Claims. A general release doesn't free you from wage act claims unless they are specifically waived. "In light of the important public policy considerations underlying the Wage Act, we conclude that although claims arising thereunder may be released retrospectively as part of a settlement agreement, such a release is valid only if it is voluntary and knowing, and, more specifically, absent express language that Wage Act claims are being released, a general release is ineffective to waive them."

Lawless v. Steward Health Care System, LLC, No. 17-2128 (1st Cir. 2018)
The Wage Act, MGL c.149, § 148, "says what it means and means what it says... An employee who does not receive her due wages by [the day of her discharge] - even an employee who is paid in full a day later - suffers a congnizable injury within the purview of the statute." 

Melia v. Zenhire, 462 Mass. 164 (2012)
Forum Selection and Wage Act Claims. "We now recognize a presumption that forum selection clauses are enforceable with respect to Wage Act claims. A party seeking to rebut this presumption must produce some evidence indicating that (1) the Wage Act applies; (2) the selected forum's choice-of-law rules would select a law other than that of Massachusetts; and (3) application of the selected law would deprive the employee of a substantive right guaranteed by the Wage Act. On the introduction of such evidence, the proponent of the forum selection clause would retain the ultimate burden of demonstrating that the clause does not operate as a "special contract.""

Meshna v. Scrivanos, 471 Mass. 169 (2015)
No-Tipping Policy. The SJC concluded that "an employer would not be liable under MGL c.149, § 152A if it clearly communicates a no-tipping policy to customers, who nonetheless leave tips that are retained by the employer."

Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, 478 Mass. 710 (2018)
Accrued, unused sick time does not count as "wages" under the Wage Act, G. L. c. 149, §§ 148, 150.

PERAC v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board, 478 Mass. 832 (2018)
"Sick or vacation payments, when used to supplement workers' compensation payments pursuant to G. L. c. 152, § 69, are not “regular compensation” as defined in G. L. c. 32, § 1, for purposes of calculating the effective date of an employee's accidental disability retirement."

Web sources

Breaks and time off, Mass. Attorney General.
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.

Equal Pay Act Guidance, Mass. Attorney General. 
Overview and frequently asked questions about the pay equity act. 

File A Wage Complaint, Mass. Attorney General.
If you think an employer did not follow workplace laws, you can file a complaint online.

How to Protect Your Clients' Cash and Assets under New Massachusetts Personal Property Exemptions, by Robert J. Hobbs and Hon. Carol J. Kenner, NCLC, 2011
Includes information on wage garnishment with examples illustrating when rights should be asserted and plenty of cites to relevant laws.

Massachusetts Blue Laws, Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development
Explains rules regarding Sunday and holiday business operations. Note: many of these provisions were updated or changed by St.2018, c.121 

Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Mass. Attorney General. 
On July 1, 2018, an updated equal pay law went into effect in Massachusetts, providing more clarity as to what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination and adding protections to ensure greater fairness and equity in the workplace. The Attorney General's Office has issued guidance and resources to assist employers in complying with the law.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules That A Release Must Specifically Reference The Massachusetts Wage Act In Order Be Binding Under That Statute By Jonathan Keselenko, Dec. 19, 2012
Explains the ruling in Crocker v. Townsend Oil Co., that "absent express language that Wage Act claims are being released, a general release is ineffective to waive them."

Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws: What Every Employer Needs to Know, Foley Hoag
A 20-page guide "intended to provide Massachusetts employers with information about the basic requirements of federal and state wage and hour laws, as well as employer responsibilities regarding the proper classification of workers."

Must I be paid for time that I am "on call"?

The Massachusetts regulation is 454 CMR 27.04(2), which says, "All on-call time is compensable working time unless the employee is not required to be at the work site or another location, and is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes." 

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Fact Sheet No. 22, "An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer's premises is working while "on call". An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee's freedom could require this time to be compensated." (Derived from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29 sec. 785.17 , On-call time.) 

Nolo.com has a brief article on the topic, Calculating Work Hours, which explains the rules and provides examples.

New Treble Damages Requirement Makes Compliance With Wage/Hour Laws Even More Critical, Employment Law Advisor, July 2008
The state law differs from federal law, and this article "reviews several... pay practices and provides practical advice on how to avoid wage hour problems."

Split Shifts - Waiting and Travel Time, Opinion Letter MW-2002-019, Labor and Workforce Development, 2002.
Explains wage requirements for split shifts and for travel time within the workday.

Pay and recordkeeping, Mass. Attorney General.
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.

What is a Valid Set-off Under the Massachusetts Wage Act, Massachusetts Wage Law Blog, 2012.
Discusses wage set-offs in light of the Camara decision (above).

What is the minimum number of hours for which an employee must be paid on a given work day?

454 CMR 27.04(1) reads as follows: When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. 454 CMR 27.04 shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.

Working on Sundays and Holidays, Mass. Attorney General.
Does my employer have to pay me time and a half for working on a Sunday? "The Massachusetts Blue Laws control which businesses may legally operate on Sundays and some legal holidays. Various retail and non-retail businesses are allowed to operate on those days, but some retailers must pay time and a half to workers.  Special rules also apply to factories and mills and to the sale of alcoholic beverages." This page provides general information to help both workers and employers understand these laws. Note: many of these provisions were updated or changed by St.2018, c.121 

Print sources

Labor and Employment in Massachusetts, LEXIS, loose-leaf. Chapter 2: Hours of work and wages.

Massachusetts Employment Law, MCLE, loose-leaf. Chapter 20.

Massachusetts Wage and Hours Handbook, MCLE, 2016

Wages and Hours, Law & Practice, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf.

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

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Address

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Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: July 9, 2018

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