Boston Wage and Hour Attorneys

Frequently Asked Questions About Wage and Hour

Both the federal and Massachusetts government have established labor laws to protect workers from dishonest, unlawful, or otherwise underhanded employment practices which employers use to cheat employees into working excessive hours as well as out of overtime pay, benefits, and/or proper wages while exploiting their hard work.

What are some common ways employers violate wage and hour laws?

The basic principle behind labor law violations is maximizing work while minimizing expenditure, and for an employer, workers’ wages count as expenses. Some of the common tactics used by such businesses for this purpose include:

  • Not paying employees for overtime work;
  • Misclassifying employees so that they are exempt from overtime;
  • Misclassifying employees as "tipping" employees to avoid meeting minimum wage requirements;
  • Taking a portion of tips;
  • Requiring employees to work excess hours;
  • Altering clock-in or out times but not the work day; and/or
  • Not paying a laid-off/terminated worker their final wages.

How might an employer require an employee to work excess hours?

Getting employees to work excess hours is not always overt. It may be the employer telling the employee that they have to continue working until they finish the task at hand, which, because it carries over from the normal work day, will not be paid in overtime, but this is not a very subtle method. Employers may also ask employees to stick around after their shift is over or come in a bit early for one thing or another. This is often done in small increments of time so that the employee does not realize it is a violation of their rights.

Are there laws protecting children and minors from labor law violations?

Absolutely. Massachusetts takes child labor law violations very seriously.

What are some of the laws protecting minors with jobs?

Both federal and state law protects minors from performing dangerous or inappropriate tasks (such as those that involve power tools), from working in dangerous environments (such as high elevations, in proximity to noxious chemicals or excessively hot or cold areas), and from working excessive hours (especially when school is in session). Minors are also protected under the state’s minimum wage law.

What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?

The FLSA is the federal Act, created in 1983 (and amended since then), which provides the main set of laws which establish employee protections, such as minimum wage and overtime. State laws must adhere to the provisions set forth in the FLSA, but may also take them further to establish additional protections.

What are furloughs?

Furloughs, in terms of employment, are unpaid days off that an employer may require of his or her employees in order to cut costs. However, many employers use furlough days as opportunities to unlawfully dock the pay of exempt employees.

What is the Massachusetts minimum wage?

The state of Massachusetts requires that employers pay their employees at least $8.00 per hour. This is more than the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. States may establish their own minimum wage as long as it is not less than the amount set under federal law.

How do employers violate minimum wage laws?

There are a variety of tactics that employers may use to avoid paying their employees the state-mandated minimum wage. They may classify employees as "tipped" employees when they are not, to take advantage of the exception to the minimum wage rule for tipped workers, which maintains that a tipped employee may be paid less than minimum wage if their combined wages and tips equal what they would receive at minimum wage. Employers may also pay workers less than minimum wage "under the table" so there is no official record of the transaction. Finally, employers may try to pay the federal minimum wage because it is a lesser amount. By law, an employer can choose to abide by the federal or state minimum wage, but they are not allowed to pick the lesser amount.

What is a tipped employee and do the same Massachusetts wage and hour laws apply for such an employee?

A tipped employee, simply, is one that receives tips, such as a waiter, waitress, or bartender. Employers do not have to pay tipped employees the Massachusetts minimum wage because they also receive regular tips. However, an employer can only pay lesser wages if the employee’s tips and wages combined at least equal the state minimum wage. If it doesn’t, they must pay the employee the difference.

Are all employees granted overtime?

No, there are certain employees who are ineligible or exempt from the requirement of overtime pay. The most obvious example would be salaried employees. Hourly employees must be paid overtime pay, which must be at least one and a half times their regular wage, for any time over 40 hours per workweek. Employees on salary do not get overtime regardless of the number of hours they work.

How do employers avoid paying overtime?

One of the most common ways employers avoid paying employees overtime is by misclassifying them to exempt status. Other methods include requiring mandatory overtime hours without pay and manipulating employees to come in early before their shift or stay later after their shift, without pay.

What are other ways an employer may withhold rightful wages?

Overtime pay is not the only type of wages an employer may try to avoid paying. Unethical employers may also resort to certain tactics to avoid paying an employee their regular wages, whether they are an hourly employee or on salary. Such tactics may include withholding very small amounts from each paycheck or denying an employee their final wages after they have been terminated.

What does it mean if an employee is "exempt"?

An exempt employee is one that is not protected by employment rights such as overtime. Although there are some exempt employees by occupation in Massachusetts, most exempt employees are those on salary. Salary workers do not get overtime and are paid for their overall work time, not per each hour like hourly employees.

How can an employer violate the rights of an exempt employee?

Exempt status may be used to deny overtime to nonexempt employees through misclassification. Additionally, employers may find ways to dock salary workers rightful pay through requiring them to take furlough days. A salary employee may not be docked pay unless they complete absolutely no work during the workweek.

What do I do if I think my employer is violating my labor rights?

Your best course of action for swift resolution of your employment violation is to retain the services of a knowledgeable wage and hour lawyer with the Kiley Law Group. We are dedicated to getting you the compensation you are entitled to, whether it is unpaid overtime or another form of unpaid wages.

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