What are blue laws for employment?

  • Blue laws are employee rights rules that dictate when an employee can refuse to work and when employers are required to give them extra pay. 
  • Massachusetts’ wage and hour blue laws require employers to provide time and a half to employees on certain holidays.
  • Homebase HR Pro can help ensure your employee handbook includes blue law rules if you are subject to them. 
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What are blue laws?

Blue laws, also called Sunday closing laws, are rules in certain states that ban Sunday activities or place restrictions on employment and alcohol sales activities. The laws stem from religious origins, particularly among Christian churches, and observing Sunday as a day of Sabbath. 

The blue laws prohibit different things depending on where you live, and you may not even be subject to blue laws at all. can ban or restrict many different types of activities on Sunday, like shopping at retail establishments or liquor stores, buying certain items, and more. The laws vary from state to state, and not every state has blue laws in place. 

The US Supreme Court has ruled several times that the blue laws definition is constitutional, determining that they secure a day of rest for workers and allow individuals to practice religion freely. Labor unions and other trade groups have supported blue law legislation as well. However, most blue laws have been repealed in the US. 

There are also laws in certain states called blue sky laws. These types of state and federal securities laws work as safeguards to protect investors, broker dealers, and brokerage firms against securities fraud. The laws typically require brokers selling securities offerings to register their issues and provide certain detail to ensure transparency. However, these don’t apply to small businesses. 

Additionally, there are other areas in the United States with regulations called blue alert laws. This public safety legislation provides an alert program used to apprehend violent criminals who kill or seriously injure members of local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies. 

Be sure to not confuse blue alerts for law enforcement officers or blue sky laws with blue laws that pertain to employment. 

If you live in a state that enforces blue laws for certain employers and employees and need help navigating the rules and regulations, Homebase HR Pro can assist you. When you sign up for an account, you’ll gain live access to certified HR experts who will review your existing policies and help you ensure they are compliant with the laws in your area. 

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What are the blue laws by state?

In regards to regulations that impact employment the most, Massachusetts blue laws are the most comprehensive. 

Massachusetts’ Blue Laws limit an employer’s ability to require employees to work and conduct business on Sundays and certain holidays. In situations where employers are able to have employees work on Sundays or holidays, premium pay is required.

Employees at retail businesses can refuse to work on the following holidays and must be paid 1 ½ times their regular rate or minimum wage if they do work:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Labor Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Columbus Day after noon
  • Independence Day
  • Veterans Day after 1 p.m.

Other states like Texas and North Carolina also have blue laws in place, but not necessarily in terms of when an employee can work and what they need to be paid. 

If you operate in Massachusetts and need help with blue laws, our HR Pro experts are available to assist you with these laws, as well as any other questions about employment laws you may have. When you sign up, you will also have access to specialized trainings to help you ensure you are compliant with the laws in your state.

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What do employers need to know about blue laws?

If you are an employer in Massachusetts who is covered under the employment blue laws, you’ll need to make sure you are paying your employees the correct amount on the designated holidays and Sundays. 

Failing to comply with these state laws may result in serious fines and penalties from the government. To avoid making a wage and hour mistake, write a policy into your employee handbook and let your employees know you are following the required rules. 

Need help with your employee handbook? Homebase HR Pro provides customizable templates and will even review your existing handbook and help you add new policies and information on important topics like workplace safety FLSA rules, FMLA laws, employing minors, and more small business HR issues. You’ll even get labor law alerts when the rules have changed in your area. Get started today! 

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