Employee Rights in MA

Employee rights in MA are the same as those given to everyone who is authorized to work in the U.S., or is a citizen of the United States of America. It's vital to know your worker's rights, whether you're an employee or employer.

Minimum Wage Rates

The minimum wage in Massachusetts is currently $11.00. Everyone working in this state must make at least this amount per hour who is not considered exempt. The following are the exceptions:

  • Agricultural workers

  • Salespeople

  • Charitable Institutions

  • Religious Institutions

  • Individuals being trained/rehabilitated to work at a charity, church, or school.

There are also exceptions when it comes to jobs where the worker frequently receives tips. In this case, the employer only has to pay $2.63 an hour, assuming that the worker will receive at least $8 an hour when tips are included. If the worker does not, then the employer must pay enough so that at least $8 is reached. If the employee receives more than $20 in tips a month, the employer is only obligated to pay $3.35 an hour (so long as when everything is added up, the worker is making at least minimum wage).

The law for overtime in Massachusetts is that the worker must be compensated 1.5 times their regular hourly rate if they work more than forty hours a week. Some jobs, however, are exempt from receiving overtime.

Payment of Wages

Employers are expected to pay their workers after six days from when the hours were worked, if that worker was working five to six days during that same time period. If the employee worked for an entire seven days, or less than three days, that same worker must be paid no more than seven days after that pay period.

Vacation Leave

If the company, institution, or business offers paid vacations, then the employer must treat that time period the same as a work period and consider the money given the same as earned wages (per Massachusetts employee rights). This means that if an employer withholds money received during a vacation, it is the same as withholding an employee’s wages. This is illegal. It is not illegal, however, for an employer to give its employees vacation time.

An employer is not allowed to force an employee into a vacation if that employee is expected to give up any accrued vacation, but that employer is allowed to cap the amount of vacation days that can build up over time, and they are also allowed to have a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ policy. All that is expected for employers to do is to give their employees ample time to use it.

Voting Leave

In Massachusetts, employees must be allowed at least two hours to vote if that employee requests to do so, but the employer is not expected to pay that time off. To be able to leave to vote (requiring the two hours off from work), the employee must ask in advance to do so.

If the employee is the following lines of work, they are not expected to work the first two hours polls open:

  • Mercantile

  • Mechanical

  • Manufacturing

Employee Rights

Regardless of how an employee is designated, be he or she full-time or part-time, that employee is entitled to all of the employee rights established by the state of Massachusetts. That worker’s schedule is merely an agreement between him or her and his or her employer—all rights still convey and cannot be taken away.

Overtime

All hourly workers are entitled to 1.5 times their normal pay if they work over 40 hours a week. The following workers cannot receive overtime pay:

  • Executives

  • Seasonal Workers

  • Professionals

Labor Claim

Workers whose employee rights are violated must file their dispute with the Fair Labor and Business Practices Division via the Attorney General’s office.

Civil Rights, Harassment and Discrimination

Per state and federal law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against a person’s—

  • Race

  • Gender

  • Ethnicity

  • Country of origin

  • Sexual orientation

  • Religion

  • Disability

  • Immigration Status (if authorized to work in the U.S.)

when deciding whether to hire, fire, promote, discipline, or pay. It is not only illegal to do so, but legal action can take place if they do. Also, if the employer harasses an employee who calls him or her out on discrimination is also highly illegal.

In regard to sexual harassment, employers who employ six or more employees must have established policies in place to protect workers from sexual harassment. Set guidelines are already available at the Massachusetts's commission against discrimination. The commission against discrimination encourages all employers to adopt their policies.

Hiring Process

Per Massachusetts employee rights, no employer is allowed to demand records of detentions, arrests, or dispositions where no convictions were made, nor are they allowed to discriminate against employees who fail to produce such documents proving innocence. It is also illegal for an employer to make a record of the following first convictions:

  • Speeding

  • Drunkenness/ Drinking in Public/ Drunk in public

  • Assaults

  • Disturbances of the Peace

  • Affrays/ Fighting in public

  • Minor traffic violations

It is illegal for employers to make note of or inquire about any misdemeanors that occurred five years prior to the employee’s application, but there are no time limitations when it comes to asking about felony convictions. So if an employer wants to screen a potential employee’s criminal record, as long as he complied with Massachusetts's privacy laws, he has every right to do so. When doing so, the employer must have the potential employee sign that he is aware of the employer doing so before he can obtain the applicant’s ‘Criminal Offender Record Information Report.’

The employee or applicant has every right to challenge the validity of any incident written in the report.

If the employer wants his or her employees to take a drug test, there must be a stated policy (signed and reviewed by the employee) before the drug test can be administered. So results are accurate, it is encouraged that employees disclose any prescription drugs they’re taking before the test is analyzed. Per MA employee rights, the employer can only receive a pass or fail results from the drug testing company. All information obtained from the test is to be considered private, and cannot be given to the employer for any reason.

If the employer wants to do a ‘random’ drug test, it can only be done for the employee’s safety and well-being if his or her job requires that safety ensuring provisions must be taken while on the job.

Employers must make sure that the employee is a citizen of the United States of America or at the very least, is authorized to work within the United States. To do this, employers must have applicants fill out the Employment Eligibility Verification Form, otherwise known as an I-9, within three days from the date they start working and earning wages. If the employee does not, there may be an audit by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Employers in Massachusetts are not allowed to discriminate against nor harass their employees based on the status of their immigration. Moreover, once verification has been obtained that an employee is allowed to work in the US, no more decisions may be based off of the employee’s immigration status.

Blue Laws

Massachusetts limits the amount of times an employee must work on either Sundays or holidays. When an employee does work on either a Sunday or holiday, their employer is required to pay them at 1.5 times the amount they regularly make per hour. This law is known as a Blue Law.

Meals and Breaks

Employees must be allowed one (1) thirty-minute break every six hours he or she works. This time may not be paid if the worker is completely free from work, and allowed to leave the workplace during that time. If the employee is requested not to leave the workplace premises, or is working through his or her break, the employer is obligated to pay at the very least minimum wage during this time.

If the work has a continuous nature to it (and the worker is not endangered as a result), the Attorney General has ruled that the employer is not obligated to provide a 30-minute break. Types of jobs where this applies are:

  • Iron Works

  • Glass Works

  • Letterpress Establishments

  • Paper Mills

  • Print Works

  • Dyeing Works

  • Bleaching Works

  • Factory Jobs

  • Workshop Jobs

  • Mechanical Establishments

Sick Leave

Some employees are granted sick leave in the state of Massachusetts, and per the Family Medical Leave Act some unpaid sick leave in certain situations (such as death, injury, sickness or childbirth).

Holiday Leave

Retailers requiring employees to work on holidays must submit a request with their local police department and get approval from the Division of Occupational Safety. This is required for Christmas, Columbus Day (if it’s before noon), and Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day (if it’s before 1 PM).

Some holidays don’t require a permit from the employer, but can be readily denied by the employee. If the employee agrees, he or she must be paid 1.5 times their normal hourly rate for:

  • New Year’s Day

  • Labor Day

  • Memorial Day

  • Columbus Day (after 12 PM)

  • Independence Day

  • Veteran’s Day (after 1 PM)

There are no limitations for retailers requiring employees to work on MLK Day, President’s Day, Bunker Hill Day, Patriot’s Day, and Evacuation Day.

Non-retail employers require a permit for its workers to work on Christmas, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving—providing the work occurs before one in the afternoon. There aren’t any limitations for New Year’s, Patriots Day, MLK Day, President’s Day, Bunker Hill, Columbus Day (provided it’s after 12 in the afternoon), Evacuation Day and Veteran’s Day (if it’s after one in the afternoon).

Manufacturing employees are not legally required to work on legal holidays, but are instead given the option to work or not. There are some exceptions, but those are limited to jobs that must have continuous work done.

Per the minimum fair wage law of MA, it is not required that employees be paid extra to work on holidays, during the night, and/or weekends. However, there are a few Blue Laws that do require employers to pay their workers at a premium for Sundays and some holidays.

Jury Duty Leave

If an employee must serve on a jury, it is required that employers pay for three days of jury duty at the worker’s normal hourly rate. As long as the employee has been working for at least three months and has a normal, verified hourly rate, the law does not discern between full-time, part-time, temporary or casual workers. The employer must pay the wages for three days of jury duty. If the juror works for himself, then he or she is responsible for paying the three days wages.

If the jury member would financially suffer as a result of his or her service in jury duty, the courts may excuse the employee from service. If for any reason the employer doesn’t have to pay for three days of service, the court itself will pay the juror for three days a reasonable amount (but no more than $50 a day).

It is illegal for an employer to act negatively towards an employee who has been summoned for jury duty, and he or she may not assign any work that would interfere with the employee’s/ juror’s ability to perform in court.

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