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An overview of wage and hour laws in Massachusetts

Employees are entitled to certain protections under the law, including the right to be fairly compensated for their time spent working.

People in Massachusetts often work to support themselves and their families. Although they may have agreed to specific compensation and there are laws in place to protect them, some employers may try to cheat people out of their rightful earnings or otherwise violate their rights. In order to protect themselves, it is important for workers to understand the state’s wage and hour laws.

Minimum wage

As of 2016, employers in Massachusetts are required to pay their workers at least $10 for each hour worked, according to the state’s Attorney General’s Office. Employers who deny workers fair pay could be subject to litigation, fines or other sanctions. There are, however, some exceptions under which businesses may provide hourly wages that are less than the state’s specified minimum.

Tipped workers are one of the largest groups of exempted workers with regard to the minimum wage law. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office points out that wait staff, bartenders and other such service employees may be paid $3.35 per hour as of 2016, provided they earn $20 or more in gratuities each month.

Overtime pay

As long as employees are at least 18-years-old, the state does not limit the number of hours they are able to work each day or week. Rather, these decisions are left up to the employers’ needs and employees’ discretion and availability. While there are no limitations on workers’ hours, Massachusetts law specifies that employers must pay them overtime pay for each hour they work over 40 in a single work week. The overtime rate is specified as one and one-half times their normal pay rate. Employers are not, however, required to pay workers the overtime rate if they work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.

Meals and breaks

During the course of their shift, employees may need to use the restroom, have a snack or otherwise take a break. For every six hours worked, employees are entitled to one 30-minute break. However, employers are not required to pay their workers for this time. The exception to this include situations in which employees work through their breaks or agreeing to stay at their workplace during their breaks.

Sick leave

From time to time, people may become ill or have other situations that force them to need time off of work. Employers who have at least 10 workers are required by law to provide their employees with paid sick time. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, for every 30 hours they work, people are entitled to earn one hour of sick leave. Employees are able to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time every year if they or a family member become ill, to deal with the effects of domestic violence or to go to a medical appointment.

Seeking legal guidance

Wage and hour disputes can be complicated and going up against an employer can seem an overwhelming task. People in Massachusetts who feel their rights have been violated may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A legal professional may explain their rights and help them understand their options, as well as guide them through the process of filing a formal complaint or taking legal action.

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