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Massachusetts Labor and Overtime Laws

Below is an overview of the minimum wage and overtime pay laws that apply to workers in the state of Massachusetts. Private actions to enforce Massachusetts wage and hour laws, and recover unpaid overtime due to workers, are commonly brought (on a contingent fee basis) by employment law firms such as The Lore Law Firm. If you believe that you have been deprived of the overtime pay that you are legally entitled to, please contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.

The Department of Labor Standards administers the Commonwealth’s Minimum Fair Wage Law.

Minimum Wage

The Massachusetts minimum wage for most employees is $8.00 per hour. The current Federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour as of July 24, 2009. Prior to July 24, 2009, the rate was $6.55 per hour.

Overtime Regulations

Most employees must be paid one and one-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a given work week. State law does not require overtime after eight hours in a day.

Statute of Limitations

Under Massachusetts state law, a claim for unpaid overtime wages has a 2 year statute of limitations – meaning unpaid overtime wages may be recovered for a 2 year period prior to the filing of a lawsuit.

Remedies / Penalties

In July 2008, The Massachusetts Act to Clarify the Law Protecting Employee Compensation went into effect, mandating treble (triple) damages in wage cases. In addition to treble damages, a successful plaintiff can recover costs and attorney’s fees in overtime pay, minimum wage, vacation pay, pay to independent contractors, prompt payment of wages for current and terminated employees, Sunday/ holiday pay under Massachusetts “Blue Laws,” and tip pooling claims.

Class Actions

Overtime and wage claims may be brought as a class action under Massachusetts state law.

The employees who bring the class action lawsuit as class representatives are usually awarded extra compensation in addition to their individual recovery as a form of “incentive pay.”

Specific Exemptions

Some types of employees are exempt from the overtime regulations – meaning they are not required to be paid overtime. Exempt employees include executives, professionals, and some seasonal workers. The following is a list of employees who are exempt from overtime under Massachusetts law:

  1. a janitor or caretaker of residential property, who when furnished with living quarters is paid a wage of not less than thirty dollars per week.
  2. a golf caddy, newsboy or child actor or performer.
  3. a bona fide executive, or administrative or professional person or qualified trainee for such position earning more than eighty dollars per week.
  4. an outside salesman or outside buyer.
  5. a learner, apprentice or handicapped person under a special license as provided in section nine.
  6. a fisherman or as a person employed in the catching or taking of any kind of fish, shellfish or other aquatic forms of animal and vegetable life.
  7. a switchboard operator in a public telephone exchange.
  8. a driver or helper on a truck with respect to whom the Interstate Commerce Commission has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of section two hundred and four of the motor carrier act of nineteen hundred and thirty-five, or as employee of an employer subject to the provisions of Part 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act or subject to title II of the Railway Labor Act.
  9. employed in a business or specified operation of a business which is carried on during a period or accumulated periods not in excess of one hundred and twenty days in any year, and determined by the commissioner to be seasonal in nature.
  10. a seaman.
  11. employed by an employer licensed and regulated pursuant to chapter one hundred and fifty-nine A.
  12. employed in a hotel, motel, motor court or like establishment.
  13. employed in a gasoline station.
  14. employed in a restaurant.
  15. employed as a garageman, which term shall not include a parking lot attendant.
  16. employed in a hospital, sanitorium, convalescent or nursing home, infirmary, rest home or charitable home for the aged.
  17. employed in a non-profit school or college.
  18. employed in a summer camp operated by a non-profit charitable corporation.
  19. employed as a laborer engaged in agriculture and farming on a farm.
  20. employed in an amusement park containing a permanent aggregation of amusement devices, games, shows, and other attractions operated during a period or accumulated periods not in excess of one hundred and fifty days in any one year.

Even if an employee is exempt from overtime under state law, federal law may still entitle them to overtime compensation.

If an employee is non-exempt, meaning an employee who is required to be paid overtime, the employer may not give compensatory time (comp time) instead of paying overtime.

Holidays/Vacation

The Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law does not require employers to pay a premium for weekend, holiday, or night work. The Massachusetts Blue Laws, however, do require some retailers that employ more than 7 people to pay premium pay (not less than one and one-half times their regular rate) for Sundays and certain holidays.

Holiday pay for a day when an employee does not work is not included in the 40 hours for purposes of overtime calculation. Only those hours actually worked on a holiday are counted for overtime pay purposes, meaning – holiday hours which are paid for but not worked are not counted as hours worked in determining whether overtime pay is due in that workweek.

The Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law does not require employers to provide employees with paid vacation time. However, if an employer does offer a vacation plan, earned vacation pay may be considered wages due an employee at termination.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court has recently held that that an employer must pay a terminated employee for all earned but unused vacation time. Accrued unused vacation time is considered earned wages and must be paid upon termination. While the recent opinion did not address the situation where an employee voluntarily quits, there is some authority stating that it does not matter whether the employee quits or is fired.

Reporting Pay

Reporting Pay. 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 must be paid for at least three hours at no less than the basic minimum wage. This provision does not apply to charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.

Pay Periods

Massachusetts law specifies when employees must be paid. Under Massachusetts law, all non-exempt employees must be paid weekly or bi-weekly (every 2 weeks) and within 6 days of the end of the pay period during which wages were earned. Semi-monthly (twice per month) pay periods do not comply with this requirement as such is paid less frequently than every 2 weeks and does not pay wages due within 6 days of the end of a pay period.

Deductions

Deductions and Calculating Overtime. When deductions are made from an employee’s wages for meals, lodging, or uniforms, the employee’s regular hourly rate before any deductions are made should be used to calculate the employee’s overtime compensation.

Deductions for Meals. The maximum deduction for meals per day are : Breakfast, $1.50, Lunch, $2.25; Dinner, $2.25. No deduction for meals may exceed the actual cost to the employer.

  1. No deduction for meals is permitted without the written consent of the employee.
  2. A deduction for one meal may be made from the basic minimum wage of an employee working three hours or more.
  3. A deduction for two meals may be made from the basic minimum wage of an employee whose work entirely covers two meal periods, or eight hours of work.
  4. A deduction for three meals may be made from the basic minimum wage of an employee if lodging is provided, or if special permission is granted.

Deductions for Uniforms.

(a) If uniforms require dry-cleaning, commercial laundering, or other special treatment, the employer must reimburse the employee for the actual costs of such service to the extent that these costs reduce the employee’s hourly rate below the basic minimum wage. Where uniforms are made of “wash and wear” materials, that do not require special treatment, and that are routinely washed and dried with other personal garments, the employer is not required to reimburse the employee for uniform maintenance costs. (b) An Employer may not require a deposit from an employee for a uniform or for any other purpose, unless special permission is granted.

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