The Office of the Attorney General is able to take both criminal and civil enforcement actions against employers for certain violations. 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 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
Who can be held accountable?
In most situations, the Attorney General’s Office may take enforcement action against a business that violates the law as well as individual owners, operators, and agents of the business.
Violations may result in an enforcement action even if an employer did not know the law. The Attorney General enforces these laws regardless of a worker’s immigration status.
A civil citation orders an employer to pay restitution to one or more workers and/or civil penalties. Maximum penalties 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 and whether the offense is intentional.
Each failure to comply with a law during a pay period may be considered a separate violation resulting in additional penalties.
When a citation is issued, the employer has 21 days to:
- pay restitution and penalties ordered by the citation
- stop violating the wage and hour laws
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.
What if an employer does not comply with a citation?
If an employer does not pay or appeal in time:
- A Department of Revenue tax lien is placed on the real and personal property of the employer and the business, which could result in additional collections activity pursuant to M.G.L. c. 62C. To remove a tax lien, the employer must pay all citations in full, plus 18% interest. If you have been liened and have questions about your current balance owed, how to release the lien or how to set up a payment plan, please contact the Department of Revenue at (617) 887-6400.
- The employer may 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 bring a private civil action on behalf of 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, 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 may be imprisoned for up to 2 years for each violation. The court may also order the employer to pay restitution to workers.