It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Massachusetts statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Massachusetts labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: Most Massachusetts workers have the right to earn up to 40 hours of sick leave per year. 
    • Employees must earn at least 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. 
    • If an employer has 11 or more employees, they must provide paid sick leave. Employers with less than 11 employees must provide earned sick time, but it does not have to be paid. 
  • Medical Leave: Employers in may be required to provide employees unpaid leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one. 
    • If they do choose to provide vacation time, employers must pay employees for accrued leave upon separation of employment. 
    • A reasonable cap may be placed on the amount of vacation that can be accrued.
    • Employers may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that requires employees to take their leave by a certain date as long as they have a reasonable amount of time to do so. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers must pay regular employees their regular wages for the first 3 days of juror service. 
    • Employees may not be penalized for responding to a jury summons, and employers may not impose compulsory work assignments upon any employee or interfere with the availability, effectiveness, or peace of mind of the employee during his or her juror service performance. 
  • Holiday Leave
    • Retail employers can only require work on the following holidays with a permit from the local police department and approval by the State’s Division of Occupational Safety:
      • Christmas
      • Columbus Day before noon
      • Thanksgiving
      • Veterans Day before 1 p.m.
    • Retail employees can refuse to work on the following holidays and must be paid 1 ½ times their regular rate if they do work:
      • New Year’s Day
      • Labor Day
      • Memorial Day
      • Columbus Day after noon 
      • Independence Day
      • Veterans Day after 1 p.m. 
    • Non-retail employers can only require work on the following holidays with a permit from the local police department:
      • Christmas 
      • Labor Day 
      • Thanksgiving 
      • Columbus Day before noon
      • Memorial Day
      • Veterans Day before 1 p.m.
      • Independence Day 
  • Voting Leave:  Massachusetts law only prohibits employers in the manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile industries from requiring employees to work within the first 2 hours of the polls being open. 
    • There are no statutes that require employers outside of these industries to provide employees with leave to vote. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave. 

Final Paycheck

  • Employers must pay employees who are fired or laid off all due wages on the day of discharge, except in Boston where they must be paid as soon as the employer has complied with the laws requiring pay rolls, bills and accounts to be certified.
  • Employers have until the next scheduled payday to pay employees who quit all due wages. If there is no regular payday, employers have until the next Saturday. 
  • While there is no law that specifically addresses when employers must pay employees who are suspended or who resign due to a labor dispute, employers should pay all due wages no later than the next payday (or the next Saturday) to comply with known laws. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage in Massachusetts is $12. 
  • The rate will increase as follows over the next several years:
    • January 1, 2020: $12.75
    • January 1, 2021: $13.50
    • January 1, 2022: $14.25
    • January 1, 2023: $15.00
  • State law requires the minimum wage to be at least 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage. 

Tipped Wages

  • The current minimum wage for tipped employees is $4.35.
  • The rate will increase as follows over the next several years:
    • January 1, 2020: $4.95
    • January 1, 2021: $5.55
    • January 1, 2022: $6.15
    • January 1, 2023: $6.75
  • Employers may require tipped employees to participate in a tip pooling or sharing arrangement. The tip pool must be limited to wait staff, service employees, and service bartenders, and the tips must be divided in proportion to the employees’ service. 

Child Labor

  • Minors may not perform these duties
  • After 8 p.m., minors must be directly supervised by an adult who is in the workplace and accessible, unless the minor is working in a kiosk, cart or stand in a common area of a shopping mall that is equipped with security. 
  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • When school is in session:
      • Work is only permitted between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
      • A maximum of 3 hours a day on school days and 8 hours a day on the weekends and holidays
      • 6 days a week
      • 18 hours a week
    • When school is not in session:
      • Work is only permitted between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. 
      • 8 hours a day 
      • 40 hours a week
      • 6 days a week 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • Work is only permitted between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on nights preceding a school day. 
    • Work is permitted between 6 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. on nights not preceding a school day. 
    • 48 hours a week
    • 9 hours a day
    • 6 days a week

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Employers must pay non-exempt employees an overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
  • Massachusetts’ Blue Laws limit an employer’s ability to require employees to work on Sundays and certain holidays. In situations where employers are able to have employees work on Sundays or holidays, they may have to pay employees overtime. 
  • Employers may not require employees to work more than 6 hours in a day without providing a 30-minute break, except for the following workplaces:
    • iron works
    • glass works
    • paper mills
    • letterpress establishments
    • print works
    • bleaching works
    • dyeing works
    • any other factories, workshops, or mechanical establishments the Attorney General of Massachusetts designates as exempt
  • The break period may be unpaid if employees are free to leave the workplace and do as they please. 

Employment Discrimination

  • The Massachusetts Fair Employment Law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, military service, age, ancestry, or disability.
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.       

Termination

Massachusetts is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Shift Scheduling

There are currently no laws regarding shift scheduling in Massachusetts.

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