How are Massachusetts’s Wage & Hour Laws Different from Federal Law?

How are Massachusetts’s Wage & Hour Laws Different from Federal Law?

In the depths of the Great Depression in 1938, Congress adopted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). By creating the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay at time-and-a-half rates, this milestone in U.S. labor reform paved the way for new state laws that expand protections for workers.

In June 2018, Massachusetts became a part of a growing tide of states enacting new wage and hour laws that can significantly impact workers’ lives. Read on to learn more about how Massachusetts’ wage and hour laws differ from those of other states or the federal government.

Minimum Wage in Under FLSA & Massachusetts Law

The FLSA was a landmark piece of legislation for establishing a federal minimum wage rate, but that rate has been slow to rise. As of 2020, the federal minimum wage rate has only risen to $7.25 per hour in the 82 years since the FLSA was adopted by Congress. The rapidly rising cost of living in Massachusetts, however, has prompted lawmakers to join other states such as California in progressively raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 for most workers.

“Tipped” workers are those who make more than $20 in a month from their tips. Essentially, the hourly service rate and hourly rate created by tips must be at least equal to the minimum wage for these workers’ labor to be considered fairly compensated. According to states that only apply the federal minimum wage rate, these workers make $2.13 per hour plus their tips. Their counterparts in Massachusetts, on the other hand, take home their portion of tips at a rate that will rise to $6.75 by 2023.

These rising minimum wage rates in Massachusetts, however, don’t apply to agricultural workers, members of a religious order, outside salespeople, and those being training in certain educational, nonprofit, or religious organizations.

Overtime Pay & Eligibility

When employees work more than 40 hours per workweek, they are entitled to overtime pay at their current rate plus half (time-and-a-half) under both Massachusetts and federal law. The law in this state, however, can differ from others in that overtime doesn’t kick in after eight hours in a day, just after the 40th hour in the week.

Massachusetts’s Blue Laws

Massachusetts differentiates itself from federal law significantly when it comes to its blue laws, which restrict business activity on Sundays and holidays. Workers who volunteer to work these days enjoy a slightly greater rate of pay than their normal rate. As of 2020, this amount was 1.3 times an employee’s hourly rate. This premium compensation, however, is set to gradually decline and phase out in 2023 when the state’s new minimum wage rate of $15 per hour is reached.

Treble (Triple) Damages in Jury Awards

Wage and hour laws in Massachusetts go beyond the basics of federal law in many ways, but triple damage awards may tie with the state’s minimum wage for most impactful. If you or a group of your coworkers successfully sue your employer for a violation of wage and hour laws in Massachusetts, you can be significantly compensated.

In addition to back pay, attorney’s fees, and court costs, plaintiffs can be awarded triple damages if their cases win. While this law could be a boon to an employee who was taken advantage of by an employer, its potentially significant impact on business owners can dissuade dishonest bosses from attempting to skirt the law in the first place. If not, it may at least make reaching an agreeable settlement with such an employer a more likely scenario.

Helping You Hold Employers Accountable

Davis & Davis, P.C. is dedicated to helping employees hold employers accountable for not keeping up with the evolving wage and hour laws in Massachusetts. In most cases, defaulting to federal standards isn’t enough and can violate workers’ rights – when this happens to you, your employer could be on the hook for significant penalties including triple damages.

Davis & Davis, P.C. fights for employees when their employers try to take advantage of them. Employment law in Massachusetts is changing, but our attorneys are on top of all the laws that impact you and how you’re treated at work. If you think something’s wrong with your wages, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys who can help you assess your situation.

Reach out to Davis & Davis, P.C. online or call us at (978) 228-2262 to schedule your consultation today!