Massachusetts Labor Laws

Labor Laws in MA

In Massachusetts, workers are provided with certain rights and protections that guarantee fair wages and hours of work. The Fair Labor Division of the Attorney General’s office is responsible for ensuring compliance with wage and hour laws, including regulations pertaining to minimum wage, overtime, payment of wages, sick time, meal breaks, temp workers’ protections, domestic workers’ protections, recordkeeping, and more. By upholding these standards, we can help to ensure that all Massachusetts employees are treated fairly and compensated adequately for their labor.

Massachusetts Law on Breaks

Under Massachusetts law, employees who work more than six hours in a day must be allowed to take an unpaid 30-minute meal break. This law is intended to ensure that workers are able to take a break from their duties to enjoy an appropriate meal. Violating this provision can result in fines of up to $600.

Furthermore, if an employee’s movement is limited or they are required to perform any job functions during the meal break, their employer must provide compensation for the period. The decision to waive the meal period must come entirely from the employee and cannot be made by the employer.

The Fair Labor Standards Act currently prohibits employers from requiring their employees to work through their lunch or other breaks without providing financial compensation. The test applied is whether or not the employee had adequate time for their meal and could pursue it comfortably, without being engaged in any substantial duties while still benefiting the employer in some way. If this is found to be true, then the employee’s mealtime is required to be compensated.

If employers fail to comply with these regulations, and no compensation is offered for a meal break taken by an employee, then the employer may face significant consequences. These can include three times the employee’s hourly wage rate for every 30 minutes of breaks worked through, as well as reputational damage. Consequently, it is extremely important for employers to take all necessary steps to ensure that employees get the proper amount of paid time off when they are due.

Massachusetts Minimum Wage

According to Massachusetts’ minimum wage law, employers are required to pay an hourly wage of no less than $14.25 as of January 1, 2022. However, certain employees are exempted from this rule due to federal and state provisions, such as executive and administrative employees, computer employees, highly compensated employees, outside sales employees, members of a religious order, employees working in certain educational, nonprofit, or religious organizations, minors, agricultural and farm workers.

Tipped employees in Massachusetts are entitled to the “service rate”, i.e., the tipped minimum wage of $6.15 per hour. For those who make more than $20 in tips per month, their employers must ensure that they make at least the state minimum wage as well. To ensure compliance with the minimum wage law, employers must calculate each employee’s hourly earnings at the end of every shift. Tip pooling is also forbidden in Massachusetts, meaning employers cannot distribute tips to anyone who is not directly involved in wait staff duties.

There are special rules governing young and student workers. Employees under 18 may be paid the federal youth wage of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment, while student trainees in hospitals and labs are entitled to 80% of the basic minimum wage. Additionally, if an employee works three hours or more but is then sent home early for any reason, the employer must still pay them regular wages for those hours.

Massachusetts Sick Laws

Neither federal law nor laws for the state of Massachusetts require employers to pay employees for any days off for the reason of illness. Massachusetts also does not require that employers pay employees for any accumulated sick leave.

Employers may provide paid sick leave via a written contract or through benefits but are under no obligation to do so. However, if an employer provides these benefits in written format, he or she is required to provide them under the law. If union contracts require that sick leave be paid, then employers are legally obligated to pay any and all sick leave for that employee.

Just like an employer can offer sick leave payment, he or she also has the right to terminate this benefit whenever he or she pleases. Employers are also not required to notify employees of this change but often do give a few day’s notice. Because some employees misuse paid sick leave when they are not sick, some businesses and companies have opted to implement paid time off instead of vacation time or sick leave. Underpaid time off employees may take leave for any reason, such as vacation, illness, or a mental health day.

Massachusetts Overtime Laws

Under Massachusetts and federal law, employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek are generally entitled to overtime pay. This includes receiving one and a half (1.5) times the regular rate of pay for time worked above 40 hours. However, tipped employees who make a “service rate” are only eligible for one and a half times the basic minimum wage.

Additionally, certain jobs and workplaces may be exempt from overtime pay under MA state law. These exemptions include janitors or caretakers of residential property, golf caddies, newsboys, child actors or performers, executives, administrative or professional workers, qualified trainees, and outside salesmen or outside buyers. In any such case, the law with more benefits for the employee will prevail.

Furthermore, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lists several other occupations that are exempt from overtime pay, including executive employees who make at least $684 per week, administrative employees who make at least $684 per week, highly compensated employees who make more than $107,432 annually, learned and creative professionals making not less than $684 weekly, computer employees paid on a salary basis earning no less than $684 per week, and outside sales staff.

It is important to track overtime accurately in Massachusetts in order to ensure compliance with both federal and state labor laws. With Clockify, employers can conveniently monitor their employees’ time worked and receive alerts when they approach overtime thresholds. This helps them remain compliant with labor regulations and provide fair wages to their workers.

Discrimination Laws

Some businesses and companies choose to not hire employees under the age of twenty-five. Despite appearing to be illegal, this process is fully legal under Massachusetts state law and federal law. The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act disallows employers to discriminate against those over the age of forty and not those under twenty-five.

This act disallows layoffs, hiring, harassment, and promotional discrimination for those in that age bracket of forty or older. In some cases, it is in fact the law to only hire employees of certain ages. For instance, the law states that only those over the age of twenty-one are permitted to be police officers. Airline pilots are also strongly advised to retire before the age of sixty-five. Both of these cases are for safety reasons.

Some older employees in some companies or businesses are allowed through court systems to have preferred treatment. For instance, retirement can be offered at an earlier age with more benefits than if an employee waited until he or she was older to retire. The 1975 Age Discrimination Act disallows certain institutions from discriminating while hiring based on age. These institutions include hospitals, nursing homes, social service providers, daycare facilities, and others that are assisted by the federal government.

Maternity Leave

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal act that disallows employees from being discriminated against based on expectancy. The Family and Medical Leave Act is also a federal act that keeps new mothers safe from job termination while they care for their newborns. This act also is designed to allow adoptive parents the ability to bond with their new children, individuals the ability to care for elderly parents, hospitalization, care for childhood illnesses, and other related psychological or medical necessities.

Maternity leave is offered for a maximum of twelve weeks and must be taken in a continuous manner. Paternity leave is sometimes also provided.

FAQs on MA Labor Laws

What is the 3-hour rule in Massachusetts?

The 3-hour rule states that employees are not allowed to work for more than 3 hours without a 30-minute break. This rule applies to all employees regardless of age who are employed in Massachusetts.

What are my rights as an employee in Massachusetts?

As an employee in Massachusetts, you have the right to receive fair wages, safe working conditions, and paid breaks. You must also be provided with clear information about your wages, overtime wages, vacation and sick days, and health insurance coverage.

Do you get a 15-minute break for working 4 hours in Massachusetts?

Yes, for every four hours of work, employees in Massachusetts are entitled to a 15-minute unpaid break.

How many hours can you work without a break in MA?

In Massachusetts, employees are not allowed to work more than 3 hours straight without taking a 30-minute break.

How many days can you work without a day off in Massachusetts?

Employees in Massachusetts may work up to 6 consecutive days without receiving a day off.

What is Rule 17 in Massachusetts?

Rule 17 in Massachusetts prohibits employers from requiring employees to work more than 11 consecutive hours in a workday, or beyond 7 PM if they started working before 5 AM.

Can I work 6 hours without a lunch break in MA?

No, if you are working a six-hour shift, you must take a 30-minute unpaid lunch break.

Can a company deduct 30 minutes from your day if you don’t take lunch?

No, companies cannot deduct time from an employee’s day if they do not take their lunch break.

Is mandatory overtime legal in Massachusetts?

Yes, employers may require employees to work overtime in Massachusetts provided that the total number of hours worked does not exceed 11 consecutive hours in one day or 60 hours in one week.

What is a hostile work environment in Massachusetts?

A hostile work environment in Massachusetts occurs when an employer or co-worker creates an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment through words or actions. This includes harassment based on sex, gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, or any other protected class.

What is employer conduct that violates employees’ rights?

Conduct that violates employee rights includes discrimination, retaliation, defamation, wrongful termination, failure to pay wages or benefits, unsafe working conditions, contribution to an objectively hostile work environment, or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations.

How many hours can you work in a row in MA?

Employees in Massachusetts may work 11 consecutive hours in one day and no more than 60 hours in one week.

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