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The 10 Most Common Wage and Hour Issues for Employees in Massachusetts
Wage and hour issues in Massachusetts are governed by the rules and regulations set forth by state law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA governs employment issues related to minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment for those employed by private companies and by federal, state, and local governments. The following is a list of the 10 most common wage and hour issues for employees in Massachusetts.
1. Failure to Pay The Minimum Wage
Almost all employees in the state of Massachusetts are entitled to receive at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. The minimum wage in the state of Massachusetts as of January 1, 2019, is $12.00 per hour. Exceptions may be possible for workers with disabilities, full-time student, youth under the age of twenty in their first 90 consecutive days of employment and for tipped employees.
2. Failure to Pay for All Hours Worked
All non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked, even if you have promised to do the work without pay. Furthermore, your employer must pay you even if you have been forbidden from doing the work. In this situation, you may be disciplined, but you must still be paid.
3. Misclassifying an Employee as Exempt
Employers often misclassify workers as exempt in order to avoid paying them overtime and/or paying for extra hours worked, often on the basis of their job title or salary. However, when it comes to classifying an employee as exempt or non-exempt, his or her job title is irrelevant. Furthermore, the fact that he or she receives a salary doesn’t mean that they should necessarily be classified as exempt.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) has very specific guidelines to determine who may be considered an exempt employee. In most cases, to be classified as exempt, you need to be paid on a salary basis and have exempt job duties.
Typically only employees working in the following capacities can be considered exempt:
- Administrative employees;
- Executives; and
- Outside salespersons
4. Misclassifying an Employee as an Independent Contractor
Employers often misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid making certain payments to them and/or on their behalf, such as social security. But many workers who are classified as independent contractors should actually be classified as employees.
In general, the more control an employer has over how you do your job, for instance by giving you explicit instruction, providing you with material and tools, dictating your hours or by being your only customer, the more likely it is that you are not an independent contractor.
Moreover, if you are working alongside other employees and doing the same work that they do, you are most likely an employee as well. The DOL has detailed sets of criteria that will help you determine if you are an employee or an independent contractor.
5. Failure to Properly Pay Overtime
Except in certain circumstances, federal law requires your employer to pay you overtime at a rate of 1.5 times your regular rate of pay, for all the hours you work in excess of 40 in a given workweek, excluding any non-discretionary bonuses.
So, if at the end of the month, you are paid, for example, a production bonus, your employer must go back and recalculate your overtime premium. Furthermore, if you work for a private employer, they cannot give you “comp time” instead of overtime pay.
6. Inappropriate Deductions From Your Pay
There are a number of restrictions placed on what an employer can deduct from an employee’s pay. For example, deductions for partial day absences are prohibited. This would mean treating the employee as nonexempt and the loss of his or her exempt status. Furthermore, detailed rules exist for deductions for food, lodging, clothing, protective gear, shortages, damage, donning and doffing times, and so on.
7. Forgetting to Account for State Law
Massachusetts has its own laws governing wage and hour issues. For example, the federal minimum wage requirement is $7.25 per hour, while the Massachusetts minimum wage is $12.00 per hour and is governed by the Commonwealth’s Minimum Fair Wage Law.
On the other hand, where Massachusetts does not have a specific law governing a particular aspect of wage and hour law, the state automatically defers to federal law. For example, Massachusetts does not have a law regarding plant closings and layoffs, therefore, federal law will apply.
8. Making Side Agreements
Most side agreements violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employees cannot waive their right to be paid for hours worked or overtime, even if they agree or volunteer to do so because they are eager to please their superiors or their employer.
9. Assuming That Interns Do Not Have to be Paid.
Many employers and supervisors assume that if an employer is an intern, they don’t have to be paid. Actually, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has detailed and strict guidelines for when an internship can be unpaid, and most internships do not qualify.
Generally, unpaid interns cannot do regular work and must be employed in some type of learning capacity. However, certain circumstances, such as when the intern receives college credit for the work he or she performs, may alter the situation.
10. Failure to Observe the Rules Regarding Youth Employment
There are very clear rules regarding the work hours and the type of work that younger employees allowed to perform. If you are a younger employee, your employer or supervisor must go over these rules with when you are hired.
Consult with an Experienced Employment Law Attorney
Employment law is a complicated area of law, but a skilled employment law attorney can make it less confusing by helping you understand the rules and regulations that affect you and what rights they confer upon you. To learn more, contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci at 781-729-3999 to arrange a free consultation with a qualified and experienced Massschetts business law attorney.