Unpaid Wages Lawyer in Massachusetts
The minimum wage in Massachusetts for most workers is currently set at $12.75 per hour. Employees must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked. Labor laws also mandate that employees must be paid all monies owed to them by employers under the terms of an employment agreement and that employers must pay overtime for non-exempt employees who exceed 40 hours of work over the course of a week.
Unfortunately, employers sometimes fail to pay wages as promised to employees and as required by federal and state law.
The problem is a real one. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor said it recovered a whopping $322 million in wages owed to workers in fiscal year 2019.
The Wage and Hour Division also reported that it:
- Helped more than 1.3 million workers in the past five years;
- Recovered more than $1.4 billion in back wages in the past five years;
- Collected an average of $883,000 in back wages for workers per day in fiscal year 2019;
- Performed investigations in fiscal year 2019 that found, on average, $1,025 for each employee who was owed back wages, which represents multiple paychecks to workers in a number of industries.
The agency has collected data on low wage industries with a high rate of wage violations. Those industries include food service, construction, healthcare and agriculture.
When workers aren’t paid the wages to which they’re entitled, workers are entitled to take legal action. Complaints can be made to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division or civil lawsuits can be filed to obtain unpaid wages. In any situation where you aren’t paid what you’ve been promised, an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman can help.Understanding Unpaid Wage Claims in Massachusetts
Unpaid wage claims can arise in a number of different situations including:
- When employers fail to provide a last paycheck to an employee who has quit, resigned or been terminated.
- When employers unfairly and illegally take deductions from a worker’s paycheck, such as deducting for equipment or uniforms from the money that an employee is owed and has earned.
- When employers refuse to pay workers for time spent on-site preparing for work or for time spent in mandatory orientation or training sessions.
- When employers pay less than the minimum wage or fails to pay for all hours worked.
- When employers refuse to pay an employee for accrued unpaid vacation time.
These are just a few of the many different situations that can give rise to unpaid wage claims. Regardless of the employer’s motivations for refusing to pay for work performed, the employer’s actions are a violation of both federal and state law. Employees have a number of options that they can pursue to get their money from their delinquent employer.A Look at Massachusetts Wage Laws
Massachusetts workers have a right to their wages for all hours worked. Wages include tips, earned vacation pay, promised holiday pay and earned commissions. Hourly workers must be paid every week or every other week.
When a worker quits their job, their employer is obligated to pay the worker in full for all hours worked on the next scheduled payday or by the first Saturday after the worker quits, if the employer doesn’t have a scheduled, regular payday. Employers who have fired or laid off a worker must pay the worker in full on the last day of work.
Hours worked include:
- All time that a worker is required to be on duty at the employer’s jobsite or other work location.
- Any time worked before or after a normal shift.
- Travel time, excluding ordinary commuting between home and work.
There are a number of Massachusetts laws that pertain to wages such as:
- M.G.L. c.149, § 148: Weekly wage law details how wages must be paid;
- M.G.L. c.149, § 150: Provides for mandatory triple damages for weekly wage law infractions;
- M.G.L. c.149, § 152A: Provides guidance related to service charges and tips.
If your employer has not provided your final paycheck or you otherwise have outstanding unpaid wages, you can complete a Wage Complaint and submit it to the Fair Labor Division of the Office of the Attorney General. Instructions can be found at Mass.gov and you will need to include on the form the dates of work for which you were not paid; the employer’s complete contact information; a description of the work performed and the location where the work was completed; copies of paystubs; information on when you last demanded payment from your employer; and other details pertinent to the claim.
Once you have filed a complaint for unpaid wages, the Attorney General’s Office will review the information that you’ve submitted and decide whether or not to investigate your claim. All complaints are different, and not every complaint will result in an investigation.
Depending on the facts of your case, the Attorney General’s Office might:
- Send a warning to your employer.
- Penalize the employer by issuing a civil citation that requires the employer to pay any unpaid wages, as well as a penalty.
- File criminal charges against the employer.
- Present you with a “private right of action” letter that permits you to sue your employer for unpaid wages and other damages.
- Take some other action.
You can also file your own lawsuit against your employer 90 days after filing a Wage Complaint with the Fair Labor Division or sooner with a private right of action letter from the Attorney General’s Office. The compensation you may receive in a civil action includes not just money for unpaid wages, but also triple damages and legal fees.