Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law FAQs
Massachusetts state wage and hour laws include minimum hourly rates of pay. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about federal and state minimum wage laws.
Does the federal or Massachusetts minimum wage apply?
The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") sets the federal minimum wage. Many states, including Massachusetts, have set higher minimum hourly rates. If the state wage is higher, that is the wage employers are required to pay in that state.
Why are the minimum wage rates different every year?
Massachusetts law changed to provide for a five year period of minimum wage increases through the year 2023. This will bring the minimum wage up each year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2023. In 2020, the Massachusetts minimum wage is $12.75 per hour.
Are there different minimum wage rates for different kinds of employees?
There are different rates for tipped employees, as well as for certain agricultural employees. The tipped minimum wage law requires that the combination of tips and wages equal at least the minimum hourly rate for all employees. The tipped minimum wage in 2020 is $4.95 per hour.
Do minimum wage laws apply to salaried employees?
The minimum wage laws require employers to pay minimum wage to all employees. If you are salaried, you should divide your weekly salary by the number of hours worked each week. If the result is less than $12.75 per hour, you may be owed additional wages.
Are minimum wage laws the same as overtime laws?
Both are considered wage and hour laws, but they cover different things. You can be exempt from premium pay for overtime under certain circumstances. Nobody is fully exempt from the minimum wage laws, at least under Massachusetts law.
Does "on call" time count for minimum wage?
Under both federal and state law, time that an employee is required to be "on call" or available for work on demand is generally paid time. The exception is if you are not required to be on the work site and if you are effectively free to use the time for your own purposes if there is no call for your services.
Is there an exception for small business from minimum wage laws?
You may be exempted from the federal minimum wage laws if you fall below a certain revenue threshold. But Massachusetts minimum wage applies regardless of the size of your business.
How do you calculate minimum wage for commission only employees?
Employees paid solely in commissions are still entitled to earn the state minimum wage. You should calculate the total you are paid in any given work week, then divide by the number of hours worked. If the hourly amount is less than $12.75 there may be a violation. This is true even if your earnings over a longer period of time equal or exceed minimum wage.
A recent court decision also held that commission-only employees should be paid at 1.5 times minimum wage for work on Sundays, regardless of the amount of commissions paid.
Does the minimum wage law apply to travel time?
Both the minimum wage and overtime laws apply to travel time between job sites in any given day. Generally they do not apply to the employee's time traveling to and from work, or traveling to or from the first and last work location in the day.
Can an employer require waitstaff to share tips?
The law on tipped minimum wage sets specific limits on tip pooling, or requiring tipped employees to share gratuities with other workers. Generally, tips can only be shared with other waitstaff and service bartenders. It is not permissible to require sharing tips with kitchen staff, managers, or the restaurant owner.
What should I do if I think I am being paid below minimum wage?
If you have a concern about minimum wage, you should consult an employment lawyer. You might also consider filing a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General has the authority under the labor laws to investigate minimum wage violations. They can also issue you a private right to sue letter, which is a precondition to bringing any civil action to recover wages.
Can I be fired for complaining about my wages?
If you raise a concern about any wage and hour violation, that is considered protected activity. Under Massachusetts and federal employment law, an employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for asserting a right under the wage and hour laws. This is different from simply asking to be paid more than you are paid. In order to be protected, you have to be claiming that there is a violation of law.
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