An Overview of Wage & Hour Laws

Posted by:

Ann Cascanett

In Massachusetts, wage and hour laws are governed by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state labor laws, which are generally found in Mass. General Laws chs. 149-151. It is important for employers to adhere to wage and hour laws, as the penalties can be significant, even if the violation was not intentional. Penalties can include fines, double or triple awards, in addition to awards of costs and attorneys fees. Employees need to know their rights and that there are laws that protect their right to fair and prompt payment of wages.

What are the current minimum wages?

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr but in Massachusetts the minimum hourly wage is $9.00/hr. Overtime pay is required for all employees that work more than 40 hours within any given workweek. It does require that the employee actually work over 40 hours (paid time- including sick, vacation, holiday, etc. is not considered for overtime assessment). It also has no bearing on what day of the week or shift is worked within the work week. Nor does it matter, with a few limited exceptions, that the 40 hours are worked over a period of a few days.

What do wage & hour laws say about national holidays?

Retail stores cannot force employees to work on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, or Veterans Day. Employees who choose to work on one of these holidays must be paid time and one-half. Further any non-exempt retail employees must be paid time and a half for working on Sunday.

Exempt vs. Non-exempt Employees

There are specific tests to determine whether an employee is “exempt” from the overtime requirement. Generally, to be an exempt employee one must be a salaried employee and in an administrative, executive and/or professional position. Some computer personnel and outside sales individuals are also exempt. It is imperative to consult a Massachusetts employment lawyer to determine the classification of employees as there are significant penalties for the misclassification of employees, even if it is an “honest mistake” and unintentional.

The manner and time period in which employees are paid is also regulated. The requirements are different for hourly versus salaried employees. Hourly employees cannot be paid less frequently than bi-weekly. Salaried employees cannot be paid less frequently than on a monthly basis. Nonetheless, all employees must also receive a pay slip, check stub or envelope showing the name of the employer; the name of the employee; the day; month and year; the number of hours worked; the hourly rate; and the amounts of deductions or increases made for the particular pay period.

Employees who are fired or let go must be paid all wages owed on the day of discharge. Employees who quit, retire, or leave employment for other reasons must be paid in full on their next regular payday. Commissions must also be paid when the amount of such commissions has been definitely determined and has become due and payable under the company’s plan.

If you believe your employer has violated a wage and hour law you should consult an attorney regarding your rights.

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