“BOSTON – A Peabody convenience store and its owner have been cited more than $43,000 for failing to properly pay an employee in violation of the state’s wage and hour laws and for failing to keep accurate payroll records, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Ad Market Inc., d/b/a Peabody Market, and its president, Azhar Ali, have been cited more than $32,000 in restitution for failure to pay minimum wage and failure to pay proper overtime to an employee. They were also cited $6,400 in penalties, along with an additional $5,000 penalty for failure to keep accurate payroll records.
“This business repeatedly took advantage of an employee by failing to pay him the hard-earned money he was owed in exchange for providing temporary living accommodations in a broken walk-in cooler,” AG Healey said. “Our office will continue to fight on behalf of our most vulnerable workers to make sure that they do not fall victim to unfair and exploitative employment practices.”
In May 2014, the AG’s Office began its investigation of Peabody Market, following a complaint from a former employee. The office determined that, from August 2012 to March 2014, the complainant worked as a clerk handling various duties at the store. In place of the legally required minimum wage, the market provided temporary accommodations for the employee to reside inside a broken walk-in cooler at the store for the majority of time he worked there.
The investigation revealed that he frequently worked in excess of 100 hours a week, but was only sporadically compensated for this work. The AG’s investigation found that Peabody Market also failed to keep true and accurate payroll records.
This case serves as an example of the office’s focus on providing economic security to the residents of Massachusetts, particularly vulnerable workers. The AG’s Office enforces the laws regulating the payment of wages, including prevailing wage, minimum wage and overtime laws.”
Source: Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Press Release (November 5, 2015)
Most employment situations in which there are wage and hour violations do not involve such extreme facts, such as 100 hour work weeks, and living in a broken walk-in cooler instead of receiving pay. However, this is an excellent example of a “wage theft” case that the Attorney General’s Office chose to prosecute.
It is important to note that a) Massachusetts law permits a “private right of action” for wage theft, meaning that you are free to use your own lawyer to recover money an employer has stolen from you in the form of unpaid wages, and b) the Attorney General’s Office does not have sufficient resources to pursue every single complaint it receives about unpaid wages. See our page about wage theft cases here.
Some key points about Massachusetts worker’s rights, from the AG’s website are:
Massachusetts Wage Act
You must be paid for every hour you work, even if you quit or are fired. This applies to hours worked, tips, vacation pay, holiday pay and commissions. If you voluntarily leave your job, you must be paid in full on the next regular pay day. If you are laid off or fired, you must be paid in full on the day your employment ends.
If you work at least six hours a day, you are entitled to a 30 minute break. During your break you must be relieved of all duties and allowed to leave the premises. If you voluntarily elect to give up your meal break, you must be paid for the time worked.
You may be paid $3.00 an hour if you regularly receive tips of more than $20.00 per month, and only if those tips, when added to the $3.00 per hour, equal at least $9.00 per hour. Your tips are yours to keep. No employer, manager or boss may request or accept any part of your tips.
Massachusetts’ minimum wage is $9.00 per hour.
By law, employers are required to pay time-and-a-half if you work over 40 hours a week. For example, if you usually earn $9.00 per hour, you would be paid $13.50 per hour for each hour worked beyond 40 hours.