Massachusetts Payroll Laws (2024 Guide For Employers)

What do you know about Massachusetts payroll laws?

Straight off the bat, here are a few key insights:


Given the intricate nature of Massachusetts’ payroll and labor laws, it’s pivotal for both employers and employees to have a thorough grasp of their subtleties.

Despite the considerable breadth of knowledge required, complete comprehension and strict compliance with these fundamental regulations are of the utmost importance.

So without further ado, let’s delve into the matter at hand.

Disclaimer: Despite our best efforts to provide you with accurate information on this topic at the time of writing, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content at the time of reading. This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Consult an attorney for specific guidance on Massachusetts payroll laws.

Massachusetts Minimum Wage

Under Massachusetts law, the minimum wage currently surpasses the federal law-mandated minimum.

As of writing, the Massachusetts minimum wage stands at $15.00 per hour for non-exempt employees, including hourly employees.

This rate is considerably higher than the federal minimum wage set under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In Massachusetts, tipped employees are also entitled to a base wage rate, but their tips may count towards meeting the minimum wage.

However, complex issues like tip pooling have additional restrictions under M.G.L. c. 149, §152A.

These laws ensure that employees’ wages, especially those of tipped employees, meet the legal minimum.

Minors are also entitled to the minimum wage, albeit with certain exemptions for student learners and apprentices.

Payment of Wages & Payroll Laws

Understanding the payment of wages is crucial.

Massachusetts law M.G.L. c. 149, §148 mandates employers to establish a regular payday, detailing the number of hours worked and the wage rate.

The law outlines a specific pay period – no more than six days after the end of the pay period in which the wages were earned.

Thus, the bi-weekly or semi-monthly payday should be within this period.

In case employers don’t pay within the specified time, the Fair Labor Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office can mediate.

If an employer intentionally refuses to pay wages due, they can face criminal charges under M.G.L. c. 149, §148, and the attorney general may file suit.

The law allows for the recovery of triple damages and attorneys’ fees.

However, the Wage Act doesn’t permit wage deductions except for a few specific exemptions outlined in M.G.L. c. 149, §150.

Massachusetts Hour Laws & Overtime Pay

Massachusetts labor laws, particularly M.G.L. c. 151, §1A, dictate the conditions of employment regarding work hours.

The state law requires premium pay for any work over 40 hours in a workweek.

There are exceptions to the overtime law, though, for certain classifications of employees, like independent contractors and some professionals.

Massachusetts has a unique 3-hour rule, under which employers must pay for at least three hours at no less than the minimum wage, even if the employee works for less time.

Violations of this rule can result in severe penalties enforced by the Fair Labor Division, including payment of back wages and potential fines.

Special Provisions: Breaks, Leave, & Blue Laws

Massachusetts law provides for meal breaks, particularly for shifts exceeding six hours.

Employees also have rights to earned sick time and can avail themselves of Family and Medical Leave under specific circumstances.

In Massachusetts, unique “Blue Laws” regulate work on Sundays and certain holidays like Veterans Day.

Also, the state provides protections regarding vacation pay, considering earned vacation time as wages under M.G.L. c. 149, §148.

Recordkeeping & Compliance in Massachusetts

Ensuring compliance with these laws requires careful recordkeeping.

Employers must maintain accurate payroll records, as outlined in M.G.L. c. 151, §15, and the FLSA. Failure to keep proper records can lead to penalties, including fines and potential liability for unpaid wages.

Complaints & Legal Action in Massachusetts

Employees in Massachusetts who believe their rights have been violated can file a complaint with the Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s office.

If the complaint reveals violations of wage law or other labor laws, the attorney general may take legal action against the employer.

The Department of Labor also offers protections to employees at the federal level.

Differences Between Massachusetts & Federal Law

While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets nationwide standards for issues like minimum wage and overtime, Massachusetts law provides additional protections.

The Massachusetts minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, and its overtime laws apply to a broader range of workers.

Moreover, certain provisions, like the Massachusetts “Blue Laws” and the “3-hour rule,” are unique to the state.

It’s also worth noting that while both state and federal laws require employers to keep accurate payroll records, Massachusetts mandates additional recordkeeping details.

Consequences For Employers

Employers that fail to comply with these laws face significant consequences.

Violations of the 3-hour rule, for example, could result in the employer having to pay the difference between what was paid and what should have been paid, along with other potential fines.

If an employer doesn’t pay its employees, they may be liable for triple the amount of unpaid wages, plus the employees’ attorneys’ fees under the Wage Act.

Furthermore, in Massachusetts, if an employer is found to have intentionally withheld wages, they may face criminal charges.

The Attorney General may also file a civil suit on behalf of the affected employees.

Working Hours: Full-Time, Travel Time, & the Workday in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the legal definition of a full-time workweek typically involves around 40 hours.

However, the actual number of hours can vary depending on the employer’s policies and the specific job involved.

Massachusetts law also has particular regulations around travel time during the workday.

Under the FLSA and Massachusetts law, travel time during the normal workday to accomplish job tasks should generally be compensated.

However, regular home-to-work travel or travel outside of regular working hours is not typically considered compensable work time.

Always consult an employment law professional for advice on your specific circumstances.

Massachusetts Employers & Compliance

For Massachusetts employers, understanding and complying with both federal law and state law is a necessity.

Employers need to ensure that they are following the Massachusetts minimum wage law, obeying hour laws, correctly handling payment of wages, and maintaining appropriate payroll records.

In addition, they must navigate complexities around tipped employees, wage deductions, and overtime pay, while also providing the correct benefits such as sick time, vacation time, and family and medical leave.

Compliance is not just about following the law; it is about establishing a fair and equitable workplace.

Massachusetts Payroll Laws (Closing Thoughts)

This article aims to provide readers with a basic understanding of Massachusetts’s employment and payroll laws.

Both employers and employees need to comprehend these regulations to prevent possible workplace issues and handle them efficiently if they occur.

Disclaimer: Not Legal Advice

This blog post provides a general overview of Massachusetts labor laws but does not constitute legal advice.

Laws and regulations are subject to change, and there may be additional requirements or exemptions that apply to specific situations.

Employers and employees should consult a qualified labor law attorney for advice on their specific circumstances.

If you have any questions about your rights or obligations as an employer or employee in Massachusetts, it is essential to consult with a labor law attorney to receive accurate information and guidance tailored to your situation.

By seeking professional legal advice, you can ensure that you are taking the appropriate steps to comply with labor laws and protect your rights.

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