Wage Theft Cases

Past Massachusetts Wage Theft Cases:

Active Massachusetts Wage Theft Class Action Investigations:


If you have worked in Massachusetts for a company that did not pay you properly, we want to help you recover your unpaid wages. Leonard Law Office, PC represents workers who have been cheated out of their hard-earned pay. We aggressively take on businesses that violate Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws and financially abuse employees.

Massachusetts has strong laws to protect employees from unscrupulous and abusive practices.  Obviously, two of the most important requirements that a business owes its employees are (1) paying wages in full, and on time;  (2) providing a physically safe work environment that is free of discrimination or mistreatment.

Massachusetts wage laws were written to encourage workers to seek justice in court. If a court finds for an employee in a Massachusetts Wage Act case, the court must assess triple damages, reasonable attorneys fees, and costs.

For example, if Jane is owed for 40 hours, at $15.00/hr, ($600.00) and the business does not pay on time, or at all, the employer could owe her $1,800.00 if she files a lawsuit and wins. In this example, the employer would also have to pay Jane’s reasonable attorney’s fees, and reimburse her court costs. In Massachusetts, judgments earn annual interest at 12%, running from the date the lawsuit is filed.  The Court in Chiappetta v. Lyons summarized the Legislature’s purpose of including treble damages and fee shifting in the Massachusetts Wage Act:

The obvious intent of this statute was
to protect employees seeking redress
for violations of the wage and hour
provisions of G.L. c. 149.”

There is no doubt about it: an employer who is liable for unpaid wages will be ordered to pay treble damages if the employee prevails in court. See THE WAGE ACT AMENDMENTS: BRINGING CLARITY TO TREBLE DAMAGES, Kimball, 52-OCT B. B.J. 12: “S. 1059, which became law on April 14, 2008, clarifies the Legislature’s intent that its 1993 statute providing employees a private right of action made treble damages mandatory, not discretionary. The new amendment provides: “An employee so aggrieved who prevails in such [wage and hour] action shall be awarded treble damages, as liquidated damages.” (emphasis added).

Common Examples of “Wage Theft”

Misclassifying employees as independent contractors – Employers frequently misclassify employees as independent contractors. This is done to save employers money on taxes and insurance. Misclassification is a criminal offense in Massachusetts. Misclassification deprives employees of pay and benefits.

Below are three key factors for determining whether an independent contractor has been properly classifed under MA employment law. Pass all three, and you’re not being misclassified:
  1. “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; and
  2. the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
  3. 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.” Somers v. Converged Access, Inc. 454 Mass. 582 (2009).

Retaining Tips – Employers are not allowed to take tips away from workers that earn them.

Overtime violations – Not paying certain salaried workers overtime pay is a common trick that employers use to save money. Some salaried employees are exempt from overtime, while others are not. There are numerous exceptions to the requirement to pay overtime.  Essentially, to be eligible for overtime pay, more than half of the work performed must be non-managerial tasks, and the worker cannot be a bona fide executive. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) covers employees “engaged in [interstate] commerce or in the production of goods for [interstate] commerce,” and the Massachusetts law covers all employees in Massachusetts. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), persons in the following occupations are not exempt from overtime, regardless of how much they are paid, or how lofty a title their employer gives them:

  • carpenters
  • mechanics
  • electricians
  • plumbers
  • craftsmen
  • laborers
  • construction workers
  • longshoremen

Unpaid interns – Lots of employers, particularly those in industries attractive to college and graduate students eager to improve their resumes, like having unpaid interns on staff.  Many business illegally exploit “unpaid interns” to do valuable work and do not pay them anything.  Interns generally should be paid at least minimum wage; an “unpaid internship” is almost always unlawful.  Giving an unpaid intern a free T-pass or a good reference does not make the situation legal. The use of unpaid interns is a widespread form of wage theft.

Unpaid lunch breaks – In Massachusetts, the rule is that for every 8 hour shift, workers must receive a half hour break for lunch.  This thirty minute lunch break is compensable (must be paid at the worker’s hourly rate)  unless the employee is relieved of all work-related duties during the break. So, if the worker must remain on the job site, or be available to answer telephone calls during their lunch break, they should be paid for this time.


Seven Important Massachusetts Wage and Hour Laws:

  1. G.L. c 149, § 148—payment of wages and commissions
  2. G.L. c. 149 § 150—complaint for violation
  3. G.L.c. 149, § 152A—tips
  4. G.L. c. 151, § 1A—overtime law for private employers
  5. G.L. c. 151, § 1—minimum wage
  6. G.L. c. 151, § 15—records
  7. 455 CMR 2.03—deductions from wages

One response to “Wage Theft Cases

  1. Pingback: Peabody Market forced to pay its employees unpaid wages | L E O N A R D * L A W * O F F I C E

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