In Massachusetts, an employer's failure to pay wages is considered a crime and subjects the employer, as well as the person managing the company, personally, to civil damages including treble damages and an award of attorneys' fees and costs to the employee.  Failure to pay wages includes failure to pay base salary and/or overtime hours.  Additionally, a wage claim may be brought if an employee is misclassified as an independent contracts, commonly referred to as a 1099.  The first step for an employee who seeks recovery of unpaid wages and salary must take is to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office. Visit http://www.ago.state.ma.us for forms and information on how to file a claim.

The Attorney General may investigate a wage claim in an effort to recover unpaid wages and salary for an employee.  Alternatively, an employee can request a right to sue letter from the Attorney General's Office that permits s/he to file a private cause of action in court. Employees who receive a right to sue letter from the Attorney General giving them permission to bring an unpaid wages claim in court should seek counsel with knowledge of wage and hour laws right away. 

Upon receiving a right to sue letter from the Massachusetts Attorney General, an employee may sue his or her employer directly for unpaid wages (base salary as well as unpaid overtime).  If the employee is successful in his/her suit for unpaid wages and salary, the court can award the employee three (3) times the amount of the unpaid wages and salary, plus the employee’s attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Another area whereby an employer wrongly may seek to avoid payment of wages and overtime pay is by misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor (to avoid payment of payroll taxes and benefits) or as an exempt employee (misclassification as a salaried employee rather than as an hourly employee to wrongly avoid payment of overtime pay).  An employer who misclassifies an employee as an independent contractor can be subject to criminal charges, as well as fines by the government. 

It is important to note that the managers of the company can personally be held liable for unpaid wages and pay.  This includes treble damages and attorneys’ fees.  Owners and managers are not protected from liability because of the corporate structure. 

Anytime a wage and pay claim exists, a wage and hour lawyer should be consulted.  Fill out our inquiry form or call one of our offices, if you have any questions from the firm’s wage and hour attorneys.