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Massachusetts wage & hour laws poster, Mass. Attorney General.
State law requires all employers to post this notice at the workplace in a location where it can easily be read. Provides a quick and easy summary of Massachusetts wage and hours laws.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.136, § 6 Eliminates "premium pay" for Sundays and holidays over time

MGL c.136, § 13 Include New Year’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day in the phasing out of “premium pay” for holidays over time

Pay rate for Sundays and holidays
Date Rate of pay
January 1, 2022 1.1 times regular pay
January 1, 2023 regular pay


MGL c.149, § 105A Discrimination on basis of gender in payment of wages prohibited

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

MGL c.149, § 152A Service charges and tips
Significantly broadens the definition of “wait staff employee”, who can receive tips and what constitutes a “tip pool”. The new definition allows individuals with managerial responsibilities to receive tips or share in a tip pool effective January 14, 2021, as long as they do not have any managerial responsibilities that day.


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

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.

Calixto v. Coughlin, 481 Mass. 157 (2018)
WARN Act damages are not "earned wages" under the Wage Act.

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, 894 F.3d 9 (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." 

Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., 481 Mass. 488 (2019)
You may be able to collect attorneys’ fees under the Wage Act even if your case settles. A person is the prevailing party under the law "when his or her suit … [is] a necessary and important factor in causing the defendant to provide a material portion of the relief demanded in the plaintiff’s complaint."

Hovagimian v. Concert Blue Hill, LLC, 488 Mass. 237 (2021)
The SJC overturned the Appeals Court decision and found that the waitstaff employed by the defendants were entitled to the proceeds of payments collected by the country club from banquet patrons that were designated as "service charges" pursuant to the Massachusetts Tips Act.  

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.

Norrell v. Spring Valley Country Club, Inc., 98 Mass. App. Ct. 57 (2020)
Detailed discussion of the application of the Tips Act to service charges. 

Parker vs. Enernoc, Inc., 484 Mass. 128 (2020)
This SJC case expanded the Wage Act regarding payments of commissions after employment ends. This case had two key holdings. First, the SJC held that despite the existence of a written sales commission plan with an integration clause, the conduct of the parties here was sufficient to support a jury finding that there was a contractual obligation to pay commissions, sufficient to support a Wage Act award of damages, which did not appear anywhere in the written sales plan. The second holding is that a commission that is not “due and payable” at the time of an employee’s termination may nevertheless constitute “lost wages” and be trebled under the Wage Act if the employer unlawfully terminated the employee in order to prevent her from receiving that commission.

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."

Reuter v. City of Methuen, 489 Mass. 465 (2022)
The SJC found that the Wage Act statute entitles employees to three times their late wages, regardless of whether the employer pays the employee before a lawsuit. Until this decision, courts interpreted the Wage Act so that if an employer paid the late wages before an employee filed a complaint, the employer would only owe three times the lost interest.

Sullivan v. Sleepy's LLC, 482 Mass. 227 (2019)
Sunday pay for commission employees. Employees paid by commissions and draws are entitled to "separate and additional payments of one and one-half times the minimum wage for every hour the employees worked over forty hours or on Sunday."

Weber v. Coast to Coast Medical, Inc., & another., 83 Mass. App. Ct. 478 (2013)
The SJC affirmed a lower court ruling that held that commissions were “wages” under the Wage Act.

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.

Do I have to pay employees to attend company-sponsored volunteer events?, Suzanne Newcomb, April 2019.
Sometimes. Explains a Dept. of Labor Opinion letter that clarifies the issue.

Employers' guide to Massachusetts wage & hour law, Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, February 2019.
Provides a nice overview of many aspects of Massachusetts wage and hour law, with links to laws.

Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, Mass. Attorney General.
As of July 1, 2018, the equal pay law provides more clarity as to what constitutes unlawful wage discrimination and adds 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, and has a link to file a complaint.

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 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 to 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."

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.) 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."

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.

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.

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.

Print sources

Employment law (Mass. practice v.45), 3rd ed. (Mass. practice v.45)  West, 2016, with supplements. Chapter 16: Wages, hours of work and leaves of absences.

Labor and employment in Massachusetts, 2nd ed., LEXIS, 1998, with supplements, loose-leaf. Chapter 2: Hours of work and wages.

Massachusetts employment law, 5th ed., MCLE, 2020, with updates. Chapter 14.

Massachusetts wage and hours handbook, 7th ed., MCLE, 2022.

Wages and hours, law & practice, Matthew Bender, 1990, with supplements, loose-leaf.


Last updated: September 30, 2022