PRIVATE CAUSE OF ACTION FOR WAGE AND HOUR VIOLATIONS

By Timothy K. Cutler

 

Massachusetts allows for a private cause of action for most wage and hour violations, such as failing to pay minimum wage, wages in general, prevailing wages, overtime, or otherwise violating or failing to comply with the tips law, meal break law, independent contractor law or anti-retaliation laws. In order to pursue a private cause of action, an aggrieved employee must first file a claim with the Office of the Attorney General and wait ninety (90) days before requesting permission to remove the claim and file it in court. Requests for removal are routinely granted by the Attorney General.

The definition of an employer -- who is liable for unpaid wages and other damages -- is not limited to the entity itself. The definition of employer includes the president and treasurer of the corporation, as well any officer or agents having management responsibilities for the corporation. 

Any aggrieved employee who successfully brings a private cause of action for a wage and hour violation is entitled to recover his or her lost wages, as well as treble damages and attorneys' fees and costs irrespective of the circumstances surrounding or giving rise to the claim. In other words, under current law, the courts are required to award treble damages and attorneys' fees and costs to a prevailing employee against the employer (as defined above).