Table of contents
- Wage and Hour Laws
- Employee Compensation and Benefits
- Workplace Rights and Protections
- Child Labor Laws
- Workplace Safety and Health
- Labor Union Regulations
- Employment Contracts and Severance
- Paystub Requirements
- Additional Laws That Might Apply to You
- Navigating Legal Issues and Resources
What’s new in 2023
- Minimum wage increased
- No more premium pay requirement under blue laws
- Employees can use accrued paid leave to top off Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits
Wage and Hour Laws
As of January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is $15 per hour.
All employees are covered by the state minimum wage, except for:
- Agricultural workers.
- Members of a religious order.
- Those being trained in specific religious, non-profit, or educational organizations.
- Outside salespeople.
There are no increases in the minimum wage currently scheduled. Massachusetts’s minimum wage must be at least $0.50 higher than the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour)
Tipped Minimum Wage
Massachusetts’s tipped minimum wage, or “service rate,” is $6.75. Employers must make up any difference between the service rate and tips to ensure employees earn at least $15 an hour. There are no increases in the tipped minimum wage currently scheduled.
The service rate applies only to service workers earning more than $20 in tips per month. The employer must provide employees with written notice that they will be paid the service rate.
Tip pooling is allowed. However, tips can only be shared between service staff and not management, supervisors, or owners.
Employers must pay employees 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hours over 40 in a workweek. For employees receiving the service rate, this is 1.5 times the basic minimum wage ($15), not the service rate ($6.75).
There is no daily overtime limit in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts overtime law doesn’t apply to certain employees, including:
- Restaurant employees.
- Gas station employees.
- Hospital or nursing home employees.
- Executive, administrative, or professional employees earning over $80 per week.
Employees exempt under state overtime laws may be entitled to overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
When an employee is entitled to overtime under state law, the employer cannot offer compensatory time—aka time off in lieu—instead of overtime pay.
Meal and Rest Breaks
Generally, employees who work over 6 hours must have a 30-minute meal break. Breaks can be paid or unpaid, depending on the employer’s policy.
Employers must allow employees to leave the workplace and be free of all duties during this time. Employers can ask and employees can agree to work through or stay at the workplace during breaks, but they must be paid for this time.
Certain Massachusetts employers—including those in glass, print, and bleaching work—are exempt from the meal break law.
Businesses in the manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile industries must provide employees with at least 24 hours of rest “in every 7 consecutive days.”
💡 Pro Tip:
Take advantage of an employee scheduling app, like Connecteam, to remain compliant with state law and easily track employee hours, time off, breaks, and overtime.
Under Massachusetts “blue laws,” businesses can’t open on Sundays and legal holidays unless exempt.
Exempt businesses include retailers, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and bakeries. Non-exempt businesses that wish to operate on Sundays can apply for a permit.
While retailers can operate on Sundays, most must comply with the voluntariness requirement. This means retail employers can’t require employees to work Sundays or retaliate against them for refusing to do so. Some retailers are exempt from the voluntariness requirement.
Specific rules apply to different businesses concerning holidays. For example, certain retailers can open on the following holidays:
|Holiday||Work permit required to open||Voluntariness requirement applies|
|Martin Luther King Day||No||No|
|Bunker Hill Day||No||No|
|New Year’s Day||No||Yes|
|Columbus Day (before noon)||Yes||Yes, if statewide or local permit granted|
|Columbus Day (after noon)||No||Yes|
|Veterans Day (before 1pm)||Yes||Yes, if statewide or local permit granted|
|Veterans Day (after 1pm)||No||Yes|
The majority of non-retail employers can open without permits or the voluntariness restriction on the following holidays:
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King Day
- President’s Day
- Evacuation Day
- Patriots’ Day
- Bunker Hill Day
- Juneteenth Independence Day
- Columbus Day (after noon)
- Veterans Day (after 1pm)
Massachusetts’ blue laws previously required employers to pay premium wages on Sundays or holidays. However, this requirement was phased out entirely by January 1, 2023.
Payday Frequency and Method
Executive, administrative, and professional employees can be paid bi-weekly or semi-monthly. These employees can also choose to be paid monthly.
Employers can pay wages via cash, check, or direct deposit to a bank account of the employee’s choosing.
Wage Deductions and Garnishments
Employers can only make deductions from employees’ wages if they are:
- Required by law—for example, income taxes.
- Benefit the employee and the employee has requested them.
Employers can’t make deductions for materials, tools, or uniforms. Employers must detail any deductions on employees’ pay stubs.
Massachusetts employers must maintain payroll records for 3 years. These records must detail:
- The employee’s full name and address.
- Their role.
- The amount of pay they receive each pay period.
- Daily and weekly hours worked.
Employee Compensation and Benefits
Final Paycheck Laws
When a Massachusetts employer terminates an employee, the employer must pay the employee their final paycheck on their last day of work.
When an employee quits, their final wages are due by the next scheduled payday—or, if there are no regular paydays, by the first Saturday after their employment ends.
Reporting Time Pay
Employees who attend work to work 3 or more hours and aren’t required to work must be paid at least the minimum wage for 3 hours.
Employee Scheduling Laws
Massachusetts doesn’t have predictive scheduling laws.
All Massachusetts employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees’ medical expenses and lost wages in case of job-related injuries or illnesses.
Employees who suffer a workplace injury or illness and cannot work for 6 or more days may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation provides injured or ill employees with benefits in the case of:
- Temporary total incapacity.
- Temporary partial incapacity.
- Permanent and total incapacity benefits.
- Medical costs.
- Scarring and permanent loss of function and disfigurement.
- Benefits for spouses and dependent children and burial costs.
Below is a breakdown of these benefits.
- Temporary total incapacity: 60% of the employee’s gross weekly wage, based on the 52 weeks before the injury, capped at the state’s average weekly wage for up to 156 weeks.
- Temporary partial incapacity: 75% of the employee’s weekly total temporary benefits for up to 260 weeks.
- Permanent and total incapacity: 66% of the employee’s gross average weekly wage, capped at the state’s average weekly wage, plus an annual cost-of-living adjustment.
- Medical costs: The costs of reasonable and adequate medical care, including prescriptions and mileage for travel to and from appointments.
- Scarring and permanent loss of function and disfigurement: A one-time payment.
- Benefits for spouses and dependent children and burial costs: Up to 66% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage, capped at the state’s average weekly wage, and burial costs up to 8 times the state’s average weekly wage.
Employers must display a workers’ compensation poster that includes the name and address of their insurer and policy details.
To start the claims process, an employer must file a first report of injury or fatality with the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) and the insurer and provide a copy to the employee. The insurer then decides whether to pay the claim within 14 days.
The DIA oversees dispute resolution when employees disagree with the decision of a workers’ compensation insurer. The DIA first facilitates conciliation and a conference.
If the matter can’t be resolved, it proceeds to a pre-hearing conference and hearing before an administrative judge. Appeals of the administrative judge’s decision go to DIA’s Reviewing Board and, eventually, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.
Certain Massachusetts employers must contribute to a fund for unemployment benefits for employees who lose their jobs or whose hours are significantly reduced through no fault of their own.
Private employers must contribute to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund when:
- They have 1 or more employees working at least 1 day every 13 weeks of the calendar year.
- The wages they pay add up to $1,500 or more each calendar quarter.
UI Trust Fund contributions are calculated based on employers’ employment and wage detail reports, which they must file quarterly with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).
To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, employees must have earned at least $6,000 in the 4 most recent calendar quarters and 30 times the weekly benefit amount they’re eligible to collect. They must also be:
- “Unemployed or working significantly reduced hours” through no fault of their own.
- Willing and able to accept and start work when it’s offered.
- Legally allowed to work in the US.
Unemployment benefits are around 50% of an employee’s average weekly wage, up to $1,033 a week. Employees may receive full unemployment benefits for up to 30 weeks.
Employees can apply for unemployment benefits online via the DUA’s website. They must then make weekly benefit requests while searching for work.
The DUA reviews benefits applications and issues monetary determinations, outlining how much benefits employees may receive. The DUA then finalizes its decision and issues a non-monetary determination.
If an employee’s application is refused, they can appeal within 10 days of the DUA’s decision.
Workplace Rights and Protections
Discrimination and Harassment
Under Massachusetts law, employers of domestic workers or 6 or more employees can’t discriminate against a worker because of their:
- Race, including protective hairstyles.
- National original.
- Age (over 40 years).
- Gender identity.
- Sexual orientation.
- Genetic information.
- Pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.
- Veteran status.
Employees can file employment discrimination complaints with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination by phone, email, or an attorney. They must file any complaint within 300 days from the last alleged act of discrimination.
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|✔ Family and Medical Leave||The state Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) gives eligible employees paid time off for family or medical reasons. Eligible employees can access up to a total of 26 weeks of family and medical leave each year to:Deal with their own serious health condition or for pregnancy and/or childbirth (maximum of 20 weeks).Care for a family member’s serious health condition (maximum 12 weeks).Bond with a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement (maximum 12 weeks).Care for an armed services family member injured during service (maximum 26 weeks).Make family arrangements while a family member serves active duty (maximum 12 weeks).|
For employees to receive leave under the PFML, their wages in the last 4 calendar quarters must be at least $6,000 and 30 times their potential weekly benefit amount.
Several factors are used to calculate PFML benefits, including an employee’s average weekly wage. The maximum weekly benefit employees can receive is currently $1,129.82. (This figure changes annually.)
From November 1, 2023, employees can use accrued paid leave, like vacation time and sick leave, to top off their PFML benefits to receive 100% of their wage while on leave.
Employer and employee contributions fund PFML. Employers with 25 or more covered employees must send employer contributions. Employers must also withhold required employee contributions from their pay.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also applies to eligible employees in Massachusetts.
|✔ Paid Sick Leave||All private employees are entitled to earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year. Employees can roll over 40 hours of unused sick leave into the following calendar year.|
Employees can use accrued sick leave for their own illness, injury, or medical appointment or for one of their immediate family members (child, spouse, parent, or spouse’s parent).
Employers can require employees to work 90 days before accessing their sick leave.
Employers with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 11 employees don’t need to offer paid leave.
Employees must provide reasonable notice of this leave unless it’s an emergency.
Employers can require a doctor’s note from employees who take more than 3 consecutive days of sick leave or take sick leave within 2 weeks of leaving their job.
|✔ Paid Family Leave||See Family and Medical Leave section above.|
|✔ Pregnancy and Parental Leave||Employers with 6 or more employees must provide employees—both male and female—with 8 weeks’ leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This leave can be paid or unpaid. |
Two employees who are the parents of the same child can take up to 8 weeks of leave combined. Employees can access this leave after the end of their probation, which can’t be longer than 3 months.
Employees must provide employers with at least 2 weeks’ notice of their intention to take parental leave unless this isn’t possible.
|𐄂 Vacation and Personal Leave||Massachusetts employers aren’t required to offer vacation or personal leave. |
Where they choose to do so, they should have clear policies and provide employees with a copy of the information when hired.
|✔ Holiday Leave||See the section on Massachusetts blue laws for information about which businesses can open on legal holidays.|
Military, Jury Duty, and Other Mandatory Leave
There are several other types of mandatory leave for private employees in Massachusetts.
|Military Leave||The federal Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) applies to Massachusetts employers. |
USERRA requires employers to reinstate employees returning from military service to the same position they would have had without their military service absence. There are specific criteria employees must meet to be eligible for reemployment rights under USERRA.
|Jury Duty Leave||Employers cannot terminate an employee for attending jury duty. |
They must also pay employees regular wages for the first 3 days of jury duty. The state compensates workers beyond the third day at $50 per day.
|Voting Leave||Employers in manufacturing, mechanical, or retail industries must give employees time off to vote during the first 2 hours of polls opening.|
This leave may be paid or unpaid, and the worker must give the employer reasonable notice of their intention to take this leave.
|Witness Leave||Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for attending court as a witness in a criminal trial where the employee gives notice the day before they attend court.|
|Veteran Leave||Employers must give veteran employees leave for Veterans Day. On request, employers must provide veteran employees leave to join a Memorial Day exercise, service, or parade in their community.|
Both types of leave may be paid or unpaid.
There are limited exceptions to these types of leave, where the employee is essential to public health or safety or the safety of the employer or employer’s property.
|Small Necessities Leave||Employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 24 hours of unpaid leave every 12 months to attend their child’s school activities, medical appointments, or an elderly relative’s appointment. |
This leave is in addition to any leave the employee is entitled to under the FMLA.
To be eligible for this leave, employees must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period.
|Domestic Violence Leave||Employers with 50 or more employees must provide employees with 15 days of domestic violence leave. |
Employees can use it in relation to domestic violence victims’ services, health care, counseling, childcare, and legal matters. This leave may be paid or unpaid.
Child Labor Laws
Minors under 14 cannot work in Massachusetts. There are some limited exceptions to this for minors working as news carriers, in entertainment, or on farms and who hold the necessary special permit.
Before starting work for an employer, employees under 18 must apply for a Youth Employment Permit. Employers must keep records of these permits for all minors they employ.
Below is more detailed information about child labor laws in Massachusetts.
|14- and 15-year-olds||16 and 17-year-olds|
|Supervision||From 8pm, all minors must be supervised by an adult at the workplace. |
If the minor works at a kiosk, cart, or stand in an enclosed mall with security, they don’t need supervision.
|When school is in session||Between 7am and 7pm, not including school hours.Up to 3 hours on school days, 8 hours on weekends and holidays, 18 hours a week, and 6 days a week.||Year-round:Between 6am and 10pm on nights before a school day (10:15 pm if the employer stops serving customers at 10pm).Between 6am and 11:30pm if there’s no school the following day (midnight if the employer is a restaurant or racetrack).Up to 9 hours a day, 48 hours a week, and 6 days a week.|
|When school isn’t in session||Between 7am and 9pm (July 1 to Labor Day)Up to 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and 6 days a week|
|Limits on types of work||In addition to the prohibited occupations for those under 18 years old, there are numerous industries and occupations that minors under 16 are prohibited from working in. These include:Operating, cleaning, or repairing power-driven machinery, Cooking on open flames, Baking, Working in freezers or meat coolers, Barber shops ,Warehouses ,Manufacturing, Construction.||There are various types of work that minors under 18 cannot do, including:Driving vehicles or forklifts.Operating, cleaning, or repairing power-driven meat slicers, grinders, choppers, and bakery machines.Working 30 feet or more above ground or water.Handling, serving, or selling alcoholic beverages.Manufacturing or storing explosives.Working in logging, sawmilling, or mining.Working in railway operations.|
Workplace Safety and Health
Private employers in Massachusetts must comply with federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act requirements.
Under the OSH Act, employers must provide employees with a safe workplace free from serious hazards. This obligation involves a range of responsibilities. Employers must:
- Comply with any relevant OSH Act standards, rules, and regulations.
- Ensure workplace conditions comply with the relevant standards.
- Provide employees with safe tools and equipment.
- Warn employees of potential hazards by using posters, labels, signs, and color codes.
- Provide employees with adequate safety training.
- Display an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) poster in the workplace.
- Maintain records of work-related illnesses and injuries—unless the employer has 10 or fewer employees or is exempted as a low-hazard industry.
The OSH Act also requires employers to report workplace fatalities within 8 hours and workplace hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within 24 hours to their nearest OSHA office.
Employees have the right to work in a safe workplace. Other employee rights under the OSH Act include:
- Reporting hazards or filing complaints with OSHA without fear of employer retaliation.
- Refusing to work in potentially hazardous conditions.
- Accessing records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Massachusetts has an Occupational Safety and Health State Plan called the Massachusetts Workplace Safety and Health Program (WSHP) for public sector employers.
Labor Union Regulations
Massachusetts’ right-to-work laws mean that employees cannot be required to join or not join a labor organization as a condition of employment.
The Department of Labor Relations enforces collective bargaining laws and helps resolve labor disputes.
Employment Contracts and Severance
Employment Contract Laws
Massachusetts is an at-will employment state. This means that the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any point, for any legal reason or without reason.
There are exceptions to this where the termination:
- Breaches federal or state law, for example, discrimination laws.
- Is against public policy.
Many Massachusetts employers use employment contracts, which replace the at-will presumption. These can be written, verbal, or implied by the actions of the employer and employee. The parties must comply with the conditions set out in the contract. Where one party breaches an employment contract, the other party may seek damages.
Non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements are generally enforceable in Massachusetts.
Non-compete agreements are also generally enforceable in Massachusetts. However, certain professionals—including physicians, psychologists, and lawyers—can’t use them.
For a non-compete agreement to be enforceable, it must meet specific criteria, including being reasonable and designed to protect a legitimate business interest. Most non-competes cannot be longer than 1 year.
Severance pay is not mandatory in Massachusetts.
Employers must provide employees with pay statements for each pay period. Pay statements must detail:
- The employee’s name.
- The employer’s name.
- Pay date.
- Hours worked during the pay period.
- Employee’s hourly rate.
- Any deductions or pay increases during the pay period.
Additional Laws That Might Apply to You
|Pregnant Workers Fairness Act||The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees or those experiencing a pregnancy-related condition. This includes providing a private, non-bathroom space and breaks for employees to express milk. |
The only exception is if doing so would cause the employer undue hardship.
|Criminal records||Employers with 6 or more employees are prohibited from asking applicants in written applications about their criminal histories. |
During or after an interview, employers are limited in what they can ask an applicant or employee about their criminal history. They cannot ask questions in writing or verbally about:Arrests or prosecutions that didn’t result in convictions.First convictions for drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violation, affray, or disturbing the peace.Misdemeanor convictions more than 3 years old.Sealed records and juvenile offenses.
There are limited exceptions where state or federal law prohibits employers from hiring applicants with certain convictions in specific roles.
|Mini-COBRA law||The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) continues employees’ health insurance if they lose their job or have their hours reduced. COBRA applies only to employers with 20 or more employees. |
Massachusetts’s mini-COBRA law applies to employers with 2-19 employees, ensuring the continuation of health benefits for employees whose employment ends or hours are cut.
Depending on the nature of the qualifying event, benefits may continue for 18 or 36 months.
|Whistleblower protections||There are no state laws in Massachusetts offering whistleblowing protections to private employees. |
However, private employees may be able to sue for wrongful termination if an employer retaliates against them for:Exposing a policy that threatens public health, safety, or the environment.Giving information to a government agency.Refusing to break a law when ordered to do so by an employer.
|Winter heating requirements||Between October 15 and May 15 each year, workplaces must be “properly heated.” |
The Department of Labor Standards issues minimum heating guidelines for different types of workplaces. For example, offices must be between 66°F and 68°F, while restaurants must be a minimum of 62°F.
COVID-19 Related Laws and Regulations
During the pandemic, employers were required to provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related absences. However, this temporary law ended on March 15, 2022. Employees can continue to access earned sick leave or PFML for time off for COVID-19-related reasons.
Navigating Legal Issues and Resources
Massachusetts labor laws are complex. To learn more about them, head to the state government’s website. It collates extensive information from various government departments, including:
- The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.
- Department of Labor Standards.
- Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The Attorney General’s Office also organizes regular wage theft legal clinics, where employees can access legal advice from a private lawyer for free.
Finally, check out a list of employment legal aid and pro bono services available in Massachusetts.
The information presented on this website about labor laws in Massachusetts is intended to be a summary for informational purposes only. However, laws and regulations regularly change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up-to-date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness, accuracy, or applicability to your specific situation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek guidance from their legal department or a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.