Minimum Wage in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts minimum wage has long been higher than the federal minimum wage. Recent changes to state law have broadened that gap. The Massachusetts minimum wage is scheduled to increase each year through 2023. Below is a brief explanation of the Massachusetts minimum wage rules. You can also review answers to frequently asked questions about minimum wage in Massachusetts.
What is Minimum Wage in Massachusetts
Minimum wage is the lowest amount per hour the law allows an employer to pay employees. There is a federal minimum wage set by the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour. Many states including Massachusetts require a higher hourly rate. No state can provide for a minimum wage lower than the federal rate, but where the state rate is higher it is the state law rate that applies.
The minimum hourly wage is lower for tipped employees, like waitstaff and bartenders. Their hourly wage plus tips must still equal the minimum hourly amount. Employees engaged in agriculture and farming are also subject to a lower minimum wage in Massachusetts (currently $8.00 per hour). Minimum wage requirements also apply to some, but not all, employee travel time.
Recent Changes to Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law
In 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a comprehensive set of changes to the wage and hour laws, including the minimum wage in Massachusetts. The minimum wage increases each year between now and 2023, capping out at $15 per hour for most employees and $5.75 per hour for tipped employees.
These changes are called the "grand bargain," because essentially the new law trades gradual increases in the minimum wage for a gradual reduction of the premium pay for certain employees working on Sundays.
The schedule for increase of the minimum wage rates is as follows:
Unless there are further changes, from 2023 forward the $15 minimum wage will apply. For tipped employees, the amount of tips and wages combined must equal the overall minimum wage as it increases year over year.
What Happens if Employees Are Not Paid Minimum Wage in Massachusetts?
Under Massachusetts law, the state minimum wage is strictly enforced. If an employer does not pay minimum wage, they can be sued in court. If they are found liable, the law requires that the employer pay three times the employee's unpaid wages. The employer is also required to pay the employee's attorneys' fees and costs.
Violations must be reported first to the Massachusetts Attorney General. The Attorney General may choose to investigate the situation, but most often will issue what is known as a "right to sue" letter to the employee. If you think you might be owed wages, you should fill out the Attorney General complaint as soon as possible, because this "right to sue letter" is a document you are required to have before filing a civil suit in court to recover your wages.
Massachusetts Minimum Wage and the Small Business
The scheduled increase in wages for workers in Massachusetts has caused anxiety and concern for many small business owners. After all, for most of us payroll is our single largest expense. The increase between now and 2023 is significant, at least as a percentage.
But it is important to remember that the costs of falling below minimum wage for your workers in Massachusetts can be catastrophic. Remember that if you are sued and lose you will have to pay your employees triple damages, pay for their legal fees, and pay your own lawyer to defend your business.
You should pay attention to the annual changes in minimum wage. There are also things you may not have thought of that impact your minimum wage obligations. These include commission-based employees, rules about tip pooling for waitstaff and bartenders, and application of minimum wage laws to salaried employees.
How We Can Help
We can help you navigate these issues and get clarity on your rights and obligations as an employer or an employee. You can use the button below to schedule a call back from a member of our team, give us a call at 781-784-2322, or fill out our web form to let us know a little more about your situation.
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