Wage and Hour*
Both the Massachusetts and federal law require that employers must pay overtime to those individuals who are not “exempt” from the overtime requirements. Employers sometimes try to bend the rules to save money by improperly classifying certain jobs as exempt from the overtime rules and regulations.
If you are exempt from overtime, the employer can, by law, require you to work more than 40 hours per week. There is no law in Massachusetts (and no federal law) limiting the number of work hours per week, except for those applicable to minors and certain regulated industries.
However, if you are a non-exempt employee, you may not work more than 40 hours in a week without receiving overtime pay. Overtime pay is equivalent to 1.5 times the hourly rate the employee is ordinarily paid. If the employee is not either not paid or not paid the correct amount for overtime work, then they may have grounds to seek compensation for their work.
In certain circumstances, Massachusetts law also has special rules requiring extra pay on Sunday.
Massachusetts employers must pay a certain hourly rate for all work performed. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Typical exceptions include:
- Tipped and Service Employees
- Employees in training
However, under any other circumstance, an employee must be paid at least minimum wage. Failure to do so is a violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act and the employee can be compensated with treble damages and attorney fees.
Independent Contractor vs. Employee Misclassification
Massachusetts has one of the most employee-friendly independent contractor laws in the country. The Massachusetts law creates a heavy presumption of employee status and makes it very difficult to establish independent contractor status. Despite this, many employers in Massachusetts continue to misclassify their employees as independent contractors, effectively denying them crucial employment benefits and legal protections. The Independent Contractor/Misclassification Law, M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148B, provides a three-part test which requires that all three prongs must exist in order for an individual to be classified other than as an employee. The first prong provides that the individual must be “free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under his contract for the performance of service and in fact” in order for the individual to be an independent contractor. Prong two provides that the service the individual performs must be “outside the usual course of business of the employer” in order for the individual to not be classified as an employee. Prong three provides that the individual “is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed” in order for the individual to be classified other than as an employee. The burden of proof is on the employer, and the inability of an employer to prove any one of the prongs is sufficient to conclude that the individual in question is an employee, and not an independent contractor.
*Employees who prevail in wage and hour lawsuits may recover treble damages (three times the actual amount of damages), their attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.