Massachusetts Wage and Hours Law

 

 

Massachusetts has a statute, known popularly as the Wage and Hour Law, that creates a number of rights for employees in terms of time off. In addition, there are a number of other statutes (such as the statute that defines legal holidays) that affect the wages paid to employees and the hours worked. Below are the most important provisions.

 

 

 What is the Minimum wage rate in Massachusetts?

   8.00 per hour

 

 

What are wage and hour laws?

Wage and hour laws set the basic standards for pay and time worked -- covering issues like minimum wage, tips, overtime, meal and rest breaks, what counts as time worked, when you must be paid, things your employer must pay for, and so on.

 

 

 

Is the minimum wage different in Massachusetts for tipped employees?

The FLSA allows employers to pay a lower hourly minimum wage, as long as that wage plus the tips the employee earns adds up to at least the full minimum wage for each hour worked. If not, the employer has to make up the difference. In Massachusetts, employers can pay tipped employees an hourly wage of $2.63, as long as the employee's tips bring the total hourly wage up to the state minimum wage.

 

The Massachusetts minimum wage rate automatically increases to 10 cents above the rate set in the Fair Labor Standards Act if the Federal minimum wage equals or becomes higher than the State minimum.

 

 

 

Where do wage and hour laws come from?

The federal wage and hour law is called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Most states also have their own wage and hour laws, and some local governments (like cities and counties) do, too. An employer who is subject to more than one law must follow the law that is most generous to the employee. For example, the federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, but employers in states that have set a higher minimum wage must pay the higher amount.

 

 

When am I entitled to earn overtime?

In Massachusetts, eligible employees must receive overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not every type of job is eligible for overtime, however. To learn more, see Nolo’s article Overtime Pay: Your Rights as an Employee.

 

 

 

Am I entitled to a lunch or rest break?

Yes. Employees in Massachusetts are entitled to a meal break of 30 minutes, if the workday is longer than six hours.  [Theoretically, an employee might be entitled to two such breaks if the employee works a very long shift.] The statute provides an exception from this mandate for specific operations (iron works, glass works, paper mills, letter press establishments, print works, bleaching works, and dyeing works), and employers may request an exemption from this meal break requirement directly from the Attorney General’s Office. The statute does not require that the meal break be paid. However, if an employee’s movements are restricted during the meal break, or if work is required during the meal period, the Attorney General’s Office has said that the meal period must be paid by the employer. Example – if a secretary is asked to take over the switchboard so that the operator can take a break, then the secretary must be paid. An employee may voluntarily waive his or her right to take a meal break. Employers would be well advised, though, to document this by having the employee waive the right in writing, and to place this document in the employee’s personnel file. Any employee who waives their right to take a meal break may revoke that waiver at any time.

 

 

What holidays are required?

 

 Holidays are another form of time off from work, and are governed by statute. Massachusetts law creates eleven so-called “legal holidays”:

New Year’s Day (January 1)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January)

President’s Day (third Monday in February)

Patriot’s Day (third Monday in April)

Memorial Day* (last Monday in May)

Independence Day* (July 4)

Labor Day* (First Monday in September)

Columbus Day* (second Monday in October)

Veterans Day* (November 11)

Thanksgiving* (fourth Thursday in November)

Christmas Day* (December 25)

 

 


 

Employers should be advised of the following when traversing the mine field of holidays:

 

 1. The holidays listed above with an asterisk are covered by the so-called Sunday “Blue Laws” restrictions, discussed below. Generally speaking, these holidays are treated in the same manner as Sundays, except that retail stores may open on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day at any hour for the sale of all goods except for alcohol.

 


 

2. Massachusetts law distinguishes between retail and non-retail establishments for purposes of application of the holiday laws. So, for example, retail employees may be required to work on those holidays listed above without an asterisk, but non-retail employees may not beforced to work on those holidays.

 


  

3. If employees work on a legal holiday, the employer must pay time and one-half.

 


  

4. No statute requires employers to pay for holidays. As a practical matter, though, most employers pay the employees for these days (effectively giving employees eleven days of paid time off over and above other paid time off). In addition, many employers provide paid holidays over and above the legal holidays, for example, the day after Thanksgiving; Christmas Eve Day; and New Year’s Eve Day.

 

 

 

 5. Employers in Suffolk County must contend with two more legal holidays – Evacuation Day (March 17th) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17th).

 

  

 

6. When a legal holiday falls on a Sunday, it ordinarily is celebrated on the following Monday. When a legal holiday falls on a Saturday, the employer may celebrate the holiday on a Friday (though the employer need not recognize the holiday).

 

 

 

7. Many employers require that an employee work on the day before and the day after a holiday in order to receive holiday pay, so as to cut down on the number of instances where employees may attempt to turn a three-day weekend into a four- or five-day weekend by being absent on one or both days on either side of the legal holiday.

 


 

 8. Employers do not need to count a paid holiday as time worked when calculating overtime.

 

 


 

Does Massahusetts have  "Sunday - Day of Rest” Laws?

 

Despite legal challenges, Massachusetts continues to have the so-called “Blue Laws” on its books. Accordingly, there continue to be restrictions on the kinds of work that may be performed and the types of businesses that may be open on Sundays. A business must consult with counsel to figure out the particular applicability of these laws to its operations. Generally speaking, most types of retail operations are permitted to conduct business on Sundays, as are manufacturing facilities where continuous operation is required. Assuming your business is permitted to operate on a Sunday, this impacts time off for employees. Massachusetts has a so-called “Day of Rest” statute that provides, generally speaking, that virtually all employees are entitled to one day off from work in seven calendar days. Note also that most employers must pay time and one-half to its employees who work on Sunday, without regard to the number of hours worked during the week.

 

 

 


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