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Updated: May 29, 2023 10 Things

10 Things I know about ... Massachusetts wage and hour laws

A headshot of a man in a suit wearing a red tie
Photo | Courtesy of Fletcher Tilton PC
Joseph T. Bartulis, Jr. is the chair for the labor and employment law practice group for Worcester law firm Fletcher Tilton P.C.


10) A seven-day workweek, for payroll purposes, may start on any day of the week. Employers should consider establishing a workweek placing its busiest day(s) in the middle of its payroll workweek. If hourly employees work extra hours on the busiest days, the employer has the option of reducing employees’ number of hours before the end of the workweek to keep them at or below 40 hours.

9) Set it and forget it. A seven-day workweek, once established, should remain fixed.

8) Only certain employees can be paid as exempt-salaried. Only employees who satisfy the salary test and the duties test under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act are eligible to be paid a fixed weekly salary.

7) Exempt means just that. Only hourly employees must be paid extra wages for extra hours. While employers may do so, no law requires them to pay exempt-salaried employees’ extra when they work beyond their regular hours.

6) Overtime is triggered by the number of hours actually worked. Hourly employees are not entitled to time-and-one-half overtime for any hours paid beyond 40 where the hours being paid represent unworked paid time off, e.g. sick, vacation, etc.

5) No such thing as free work. Mass. law requires all hourly employees be paid for all time spent working. This includes any time hourly employees spend before the start or end of their shifts doing work the employer did not ask them to perform, or at least not outside their shift.

4) Employees must be paid weekly or bi-weekly, with limited exception for certain exempt-salaried employees.

3) Bi-weekly is not the same as semi-monthly. Employees who are paid bi-weekly are paid 26 times per year. Employees who paid twice a month are unlawfully shorted two pay periods per year, in violation of Massachusetts law. Once a payday is established, it should remain unchanged each pay period.

2) Final pay. An employee who is terminated must be paid all their final wages owed – including payment for accrued vacation time – on the day the termination becomes effective.

1) Dog ate my homework: no excuses for late payments. An employer who neglects to timely pay its employees exactly what they are owed exactly when they are owed it – regardless of the reason – are subject to a claim for treble damages and attorney’s fees.

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