Executive, administrative and professional employees and salaried employees can be paid semi-monthly or may be paid monthly at their own option.
For the purpose of this statute, an individual performing any service is considered to be an employee unless:
the individual is 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;
the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
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. M.G.L.c. 149, s. 148B
Wages must be paid within six days of the termination of the pay period, or within seven days if the employee has a seven-day workweek.
Employees who are terminated must be paid their wages on the day of discharge. The day of discharge is the date the employer severs its employment relationship with the employee. If the employee is paid past his last work day, the day of discharge is the time of final accounting and payment. Knous v. Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., 991 F.3d 344 (1st Cir. 2021)
Employees who resign must be paid on the next payday.
The term "wages" includes hourly wages, salary, commissions, holiday pay and vacation pay that is due.
If an employer does not pay wages until after the deadlines provided in the Wage Act but before the employee files a complaint, the employer is still liable for treble the amount of the late wages plus attorney's fees and costs. Reuter v. City of Methuen, 489 Mass. 465 (2022)
This statute does not apply to an employee of a hospital which is supported in part by contributions from the Commonwealth or from any city or town, or to an employee of a hospital which provides treatment to patients free of charge, or which is conducted as a public charity, unless such employee requests the hospital to pay him weekly.
This statute also does not apply to an employee of a co-operative association if he is a shareholder therein, unless he requests such association to pay him weekly, or to casual employees employed by the Commonwealth or by any county, city or town.
Under the Wage Act: "No person shall by a special contract with an employee or by any other means exempt himself from" this Statute. A forum selection clause that, in operation, would deprive an employee of substantive rights guaranteed by the Wage Act violates public policy and is unenforceable. Melia v. Zenhire, Inc., 462 Mass. 164, 173-174 (2012)
Under M.G.L.c. 149, s. 150, an employer's defenses are limited: "On the trial no defense for failure to pay as required, other than the attachment of such wages by trustee process or a valid assignment thereof or a valid set-off against the same, or the absence of the employee from his regular place of labor at the time of payment, or an actual tender to such employee at the time of payment of the wages so earned by him, shall be valid." In Camara v. Attorney General, 458 Mass. 756 (2011), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that such "valid set-offs" involve some form of due process through the court system or occur at an employee's direction and in the employee's interest. Employee deduction agreements obtained through threat of discipline constitute prohibited special contracts unless the deductions are valid set-offs for clear and established debts. In an earlier case Somers v. Converged Access, Inc., 454 Mass. 582, 593 (2009), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated that it understood the term "valid set-off" in the common, ordinary sense to refer to circumstances where there exists a clear and established debt owed to the employer by the employee.
A settlement or contract termination agreement by an employee that includes a general release, purporting to release all possible existing claims, will be enforceable as to the statutorily provided rights and remedies conferred by the Wage Act only if such an agreement is stated in clear and unmistakable terms. The release must be plainly worded and understandable to the average individual, and it must specifically refer to the rights and claims under the Wage Act that the employee is waiving. Crocker v. Townsend Oil Company, Inc., 464 Mass. 1, 14 (2012)
In Electronic Data Systems Corp. v. Attorney General, 454 Mass. 63 (2009), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court approved of the Attorney General's Advisory 99/1, which provided, inter alia, that an employer may require employees to use all of their accumulated vacation time by a certain period of time or lose all or part of it, provided the employer also gives adequate notice of the policy to employees and ensures that the employees have a reasonable opportunity to use the accumulated vacation time within the time limits established by the employer. The SJC also held that the Wage Act's "special contracts" clause recognizes that the Wage Act would have little value if employers could exempt themselves simply by drafting contracts that placed compensation outside its bounds. Id. at 79.
Employees who have not been paid their "wages" can file an online complaint for "Non-Payment of Wage" with the Massachusetts Attorney General pursuant to M.G.L.c. 149, s. 150 and receive from the Attorney General a "private right of action" letter, allowing an employee so aggrieved who prevails in court to be awarded treble damages, reasonable attorneys' fees and the cost of litigation. Such an action must be brought within three years of the violation, but that period is tolled from the date the employee files a complaint with the Attorney General until the date the Attorney General issues a letter authorizing a private right of action.
For purposes of the enforcement of this statute, the president and treasurer of a corporation and any officers or agents having the management of the corporation are deemed to be the "employer" of the employees of the corporation.
In Souminen v. Goodman Industrial Equities Management Group, LLC, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 723, 737-738, rev. denied, 459 Mass. 1109 (2011), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts held that a payment to an employee based upon a percentage or share of overall profits is not a "commission" for purposes of the Wage Act.
In Dow v. Casale, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 751 (2013), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts held that a salesman telecommuting much of the time from his residence in Florida while working for a Massachusetts company could avail himself of the Wage Act because Massachuetts had by far the most significant relationship to the employer as a citizen of Massachusetts and to the salesman's employment relationship with the employer.
In George v. National Water Main Cleaning Company, 477 Mass. 371 (2017), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that statutory prejudgment interest shall be added by the clerk of the court to the amount of lost wages and other benefits awarded as damages pursuant to M.G.L.c. 149, s. 150, but shall not be added to the additional amount of the award arising from the trebling of those damages as liquidated damages.
In Calixto v. Coughlin, 481 Mass. 157 (2018), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that earned wages, within the meaning of the Wage Act, are limited to payments for work that has actually been performed and that are presently due to be paid by the employer. The Court therefore held that the Wage Act did not apply to backpay awards. The Court also noted that under the same rationale it had previously held that "sick time" was not "earned wages" under the Wage Act. Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, 478 Mass. 710, 713 (2018)
In Ferman v. Sturgis Cleaners, Inc., 481 Mass. 488 (2019), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial concluded that a plaintiff prevails for purposes of an award of attorney's fees under the Wage Act when the plaintiff's suit satisfies the catalyst test by acting as a necessary and important factor in causing the defendant to provide a material portion of the relief demanded in the plaintiff's complaint; thus, where, in a civil action alleging failure to pay regular and overtime wages, the plaintiff's lawsuit caused the defendants, as part of a settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal, to provide approximately seventy percent of the plaintiff's monetary demands (clearly a material portion), the plaintiff prevailed for purposes of an award of attorney's fees.
In the case of Rose v. RTN Federal Credit Union, 1 F.4th 56 (1st Cir. 2021), the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Labor Management Relations Act preempted the plaintiff's wage claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act because she was a member of a union and because her employer had an existing collective bargaining agreement with the union that governed her wages and overtime pay.
In Devaney v. Zucchini Gold, LLC, 489 Mass. 514 (2022), the Supreme Judicial Court held that when an employer violates the Federal overtime law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. s. 207, an employee is precluded from alternately pursuing remedies under the Massachusetts Weekly Payment of Wages Act, M.G.L.c. 149, s. 148, for the untimely payment of overtime wages if they are due solely pursuant to the FLSA.
On August 11, 2023, in Klauber v. VMWare, Inc., 80 F.4th 1 (1st Cir. 2023), the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employer's use of provision in its compensation plan that allowed it to modify commissions on certain large or atypical sales did not violate the Massachusetts Wage Act (M.G.L.c. 149, s. 148). In the commission plan commissions were only considered "earned" once, inter alia, a "Plan Reconciliation" had been completed by the employer in which it determined whether and how much to adjust commissions for "Exception Transactions", i.e., atypical transactions.