By: Maura E. Malone
On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Establish Pay Equity (the Act)” into law. The Act, which does not become effective until July 1, 2018, will require Massachusetts employers to pay men and women equally for comparable work. It also forbids employers from asking prospective employees about salary history or restricting employee discussion of pay. The Act imposes significant consequences for
violations of the law.
The Act will make it unlawful for employers to pay unequal wages to employees of different genders who perform comparable work. The Act broadly defines wages to include “all forms of remuneration for employment.”
Continue reading on the full alert.
The minimum wage in Massachusetts is set to increase on January 1, 2015 for the first time since 2008. On June 26, 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law which will raise the hourly minimum wage for non-tipped employees from $8.00 an hour as follows:
- Beginning January 1, 2015, to $9.00.
- Beginning January 1, 2016, to $10.00.
- Beginning January 1, 2017, to $11.00.
The hourly minimum cash wage for tipped workers will increase from $2.63 to $3.00 an hour on January 1, 2015, and again to $3.75 an hour on January 1, 2017. As a result of these increases, Massachusetts’ minimum wage will be amongst the highest in the country.
Compliance with Massachusetts’ minimum wage laws is important since the failure to do so will result in a violation of the Massachusetts “Payment of Wages” statute, M.G.L. c.149, §148 (the “Wage Act”). Violations of the Wage Act carry a high price and are subject to mandatory treble (triple) damages and attorney’s fees, even if an employer has acted in good faith. Wage Act violations can also result in criminal penalties and civil liability for the employer as well for as the president, treasurer, and individual “officers and agents” of the employer.
For more information on the Massachusetts minimum wage increase or wage and hour compliance generally, contact a member of the Employment Law Group.
On August 12, 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) ruled that employees claiming they are owed wage or salary compensation are not limited to bringing their claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, § 148, and can also bring claims under common law, including breach of contract claims. The ruling is significant because, although the Wage Act provides very powerful remedies to claimants, including mandatory treble damages and attorney’s fees, the Wage Act has a three year statute of limitations. In contrast, a six year statute of limitations period applies to breach of contract claims in Massachusetts. This means that claimants can seek damages going back six years, though only the last three years of damages would be subject to trebling.
The SJC’s decision in Lipsitt v. Plaud can be accessed here.
You may contact a member of MBBP’s Employment Law Group for more information.