Massachusetts Labor Laws

Updated: 03/09/2020

Massachusetts Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage rate in Massachusetts is $12.75 per hour. That can be compared to the $7.25 hourly wage required under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. When there’s a difference between federal and state laws, businesses must pay employees the higher rate.

USA map with Massachusetts superimposed

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History of Massachusetts Labor Laws

The current minimum wage requirements under the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 151, Section 1, took effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Hourly rates have been going up, reaching $12 on Jan. 1, 2019, and $11 on Jan.1, 2017.

As part of a recent trend among states, Massachusetts has passed laws to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and both large businesses and small businesses will need to comply by the same deadlines.

Employers must pay $13.50 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2021, $14.25 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2022, and $15 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2023.

Employers have to make sure that deductions don’t cause an employee’s hourly wage to fall below the legal minimum. For example, an employer can deduct from someone’s wages for the cost of meals provided to him or her – as long as that person has agreed to the arrangement. But if the deduction would bring the employee’s hourly rate below the minimum wage, it’s not allowed.

Certain industries have the option of paying less than the minimum wage to student workers. The allowed amount is 80% of the minimum wage rate. The director of the Department of Labor Standards would need to grant a waiver, though. Eligible industries are hospitals and laboratories, bona fide educational institutions and nonprofits.

Municipality Minimum Wage Laws

Although businesses must follow federal and state minimum wage laws, no localities have passed legislation to raise the hourly wage above those rates – at least not yet.

Massachusetts Minimum Wage Exemptions

Certain workers don’t need to be paid the minimum wage rate under Massachusetts law. Workers exempt from the minimum wage are:

  • Agricultural workers
  • Members of a religious order
  • Workers being trained in certain educational, nonprofit or religious organizations
  • Outside salespeople

Massachusetts Posting Requirements

In addition to federal postings, several state posters and notices to be displayed in the workplace, such as:

  • Minimum Wage
  • Fair Employment
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave
  • Parental Leave
  • Earned Sick Time
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Workers' Compensation
  • No Smoking Sign

Tipped Wage in Massachusetts

If an employee, in their service to customers, makes more than $20 per month in tips, then the hourly service rate may be used with that person.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, the Massachusetts service rate is $4.95 per hour for tipped employees. That rate is going up, in conjunction with the regular minimum wage rate. Employers must pay a service rate of $5.55 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2021, $6.15 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2022, and $6.75 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2023.

As you’re calculating wages, remember that the average hourly tips plus the hourly service rate must add up to at least the minimum wage. That means, for a tipped employee to earn the current minimum wage rate of $12.75 per hour, his or her paycheck must include at least a $4.95 per hour service rate and a $7.80 per hour tip rate.

Managers, supervisors and owners can’t take any part of their employees’ tips for themselves.

If a customer’s bill contains tips and service charges, those amounts must be given only to wait staff, service bartenders or other service employees. In Massachusetts, tip pooling is allowed only for wait staff, service bartenders and other service employees.

Overtime Wage in Massachusetts

According to the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 151, Section 1A, employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek must be paid the overtime rate. That’s 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for every hour worked over 40.

Not all types of payments must be included in the regular rate of pay when computing how much overtime is due. You can leave out commissions, drawing accounts, bonuses or other incentive pay based on sales of production.

A word of caution: For employers who are using the service rate of $4.95 as part of an employee’s hourly wage, such employees should be paid 1.5 times the basic minimum wage, not the service rate.

Retail businesses received some good news in 2018 with the passage of legislation to slowly start reducing the premium pay rate for Sunday and holiday work – at least work done on some holidays.

The changes applied to retail establishments operating on Sundays and on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Here are the specifics of the decline from 1.5 times regular pay:

  • 2019 – 1.4 times regular pay
  • 2020 – 1.3 times regular pay
  • 2021 – 1.2 times regular pay
  • 2022 – 1.1 times regular pay

The 2018 legislation didn’t change the requirement that retail establishments must pay 1.5 times the regular rate to employees who work on New Year’s Day, Columbus Day before 12 p.m. and Veterans Day before 1 p.m.

Overall, as on the federal level, certain types of businesses and occupations in Massachusetts may be exempt from overtime requirements. In the state, overtime exemptions are in effect for a person working:

  • as a janitor or caretaker of residential property, who when furnished with living quarters is paid a wage of at least $30 per week
  • as a golf caddy, newsboy or child actor or performer
  • as a bona fide executive, or administrative or professional employee or qualified trainee for such a position earning more than $80 per week
  • as an outside salesman or outside buyer
  • as a learner, apprentice or handicapped person under a special license
  • as a fisherman or as someone employed in the catching or taking of any kind of fish, shellfish or other aquatic forms of animal and vegetable life
  • as a switchboard operator in a public telephone exchange
  • as a driver or helper on a truck with respect to whom the Interstate Commerce Commission has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service, or as an employee of an employer subject to certain provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act or subject to parts of the Railway Labor Act
  • in a business or specified operation of a business which is carried on during a period or during accumulated periods not in excess of 120 in any year, and determined by the commissioner to be seasonal in nature
  • as a seaman
  • by an employer licensed and regulated pursuant to the state’s motor vehicle laws
  • in a hotel, motel, motor court or like establishment
  • in a gasoline station
  • in a restaurant
  • as a garageman, which does not include parking lot attendants
  • in a hospital, sanitorium, convalescent or nursing home, infirmary, rest home or charitable home for the aged
  • in a non-profit school or college
  • in a summer camp operated by a non-profit charitable corporation
  • as a laborer engaged in agriculture and farming on a farm
  • in an amusement park containing a permanent aggregation of amusement devices, games, shows and other attractions operated during a period or during accumulated periods not in excess of 150 days in any one year

Child Labor Laws in Massachusetts

Whenever minors are on the payroll, restrictions apply regarding time and schedules.

As for time restrictions for 14- and 15-year-old employees, their workday must end by 7 p.m. and must not begin before 7 a.m. However, from July 1 through Labor Day, the end of the workday is extended to 9 p.m.

During the school year, these minors aren’t allowed to work during school hours, more than three hours on any school day, more than 18 hours during any week or more than eight hours on any weekend or holiday. Exception: The hours are extended to 23 hours per week for school-approved career or experience-building jobs.

When school isn’t in session, employers have a little more flexibility with scheduling 14- and 15-year-olds to work. The rules under Massachusetts law are that these employees may not work more than eight hours on any day, more than 40 hours per week or more than six days per week.

A business employing a minor who’s 16- or 17-years old should know the time restrictions. These employees can’t start working for the day before 6 a.m. The workday must end for them at 10 p.m., but in the case of an employer that stops serving customers at 10 p.m., the workday can be extended to 10:15 p.m. On non-school nights, 16- and 17-year-olds may be allowed to work until 11:30 p.m. That’s pushed even later – until midnight – for these minors who work at a restaurant or racetrack.

It’s important to monitor hours as they’re adding up because 16- and 17-year-olds in Massachusetts aren’t permitted to work more than nine hours per day, more than 48 hours per week or more than six days per week.

Employer Recordkeeping Requirements

In Massachusetts, businesses must comply with state recordkeeping rules, in addition to federal requirements.

Payroll records must include the employee’s name, address, job/occupation, amount paid each pay period and hours worked (each day and week).

These records should be retained by employers for three years. If employees ask to see their own payroll records, they have a right to do so, but the times and places they view their records must be reasonable.

Massachusetts Labor Law Questions & Answers

Massachusetts Combined Federal and State Kit plus Update Service

Have all of your state and federal required posters updated whenever the laws change.