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Federal Court Expands What Constitutes Damages Under MA Wage and Hour Law

In Lambirth v. Advanced Auto, Inc. et al., the United States District Court of
Massachusetts held that the plaintiff’s federal overtime payments should be regarded
as “wages” for the purposes of the state Wage Act. Thus, even where overtime was not
payable under the Massachusetts Wage Act, and overtime was only payable under the
FLSA, the plaintiff’s federal overtime wages were recoverable as wages under the state
Wage Act such that his lost wages were trebled.

More recently, in 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that, although
successful Wage Act plaintiffs are entitled to prejudgment interest on the unpaid wages
and other benefits they are awarded, they cannot recover interest on the liquidated
damages. In George, et al. v. National Water Main Cleaning Company, et al. a class
action suit against a company for nonpayment of wages under the Wage Act was
removed to the United States District Court of Massachusetts, where the District Court
approved a class settlement agreement that resolved all issues except whether
statutory interest is available when treble damages are awarded under the Wage Act.
Because the legislature left open the question of whether plaintiffs were entitled to
recover prejudgment interest on treble damages or whether they were intended to
already include prejudgment interest, the District Court certified the question to the
Supreme Judicial Court.

The Supreme Judicial Court held that successful Wage Act plaintiffs could recover
prejudgment interest on their lost wages and benefits; however, prejudgment interest is
not to be added to the treble damages awarded as liquidated damages. The Court
reasoned that the Legislature’s 2008 amendment to the Wage Act describing trebled
damages as “liquidated damages” did not affect the prejudgment interest on lost wages
and benefits. However, the Court also ruled that prejudgment interest is not to be
added to the treble damages awarded to plaintiffs as liquidated damages.

When you have questions about employment law, don’t hesitate to contact John Davis. He could be your employment lawyer in Massachusetts. He is experienced, resourceful, and dedicated to you and your case. Contact us today.

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