Massachusetts Overtime Laws

January 21st 2024

It is common for employees to work beyond their normal hours of work. However, according to Massachusetts Labor Laws, employers are required to compensate employees for their overtime.

In Massachusetts, you are entitled to time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 in a week.

This article will provide information to successfully navigate Massachusetts’ overtime regulations, whether you’re an employer aiming for compliance or an employee defending your rights.

This article covers:

Massachusetts Overtime Rates

Overtime law in Massachusetts is designed to prevent employees from being exploited by their employers. Overtime is set at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. 

Since Massachusetts’ regular minimum wage is $15.00 per hour, that makes the overtime wage stand at $22.50 per hour (1.5 times the minimum wage).

Overtime Entitlement in Massachusetts

According to Massachusetts overtime laws, overtime pay is required for any non-exempt employees. Hourly employees who earn below $684 a week ($35,568 annually) and work in a non-exempt industry are entitled to overtime pay.

However, your overall eligibility for overtime pay will be based on what your job duties are as well as what type of business you are in.

Read more about Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Massachusetts.

“Compensatory Time” in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, only state or local government employers are allowed to offer compensatory time (“comp time”) to their employees for their overtime hours worked. 

Overtime for Tipped Employees in Massachusetts

A tipped employee in Massachusetts is entitled to overtime compensation. However, their minimum wage is lower than the standard state minimum wage. It stands at $6.75 per hour, with a tip credit of $8.25.

Here, it is important to understand what tip credit is. A tip credit is a system that enables employers to pay tipped employees a lower minimum wage. To calculate tip credit, simply take the standard state minimum wage minus what the tipped employee is paid.

If a tipped employee works overtime hours, their overtime rate will be calculated based on the full minimum wage, and not the lower wage that they are being paid.

The employer is not permitted to take a higher tip credit for an employee’s overtime hours as they do with regular hours.

Overtime for Salaried Employees in Massachusetts 

In Massachusetts, most salaried workers do not receive overtime pay. However, a certain group of nonexempt salaried employees can receive overtime through the Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW). 

If eligible, these employees will receive an additional one-half (0.5) times their regular hourly pay rate for each extra hour worked, even if their workweek fluctuates.

This means that salaried employees who work different hours from week to week can still receive overtime pay.  

Overtime for Restaurants and Hotel Workers in Massachusetts

A restaurant is one of the few businesses that are exempt from providing their employees with overtime compensation. However, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), restaurants with a gross sale of $500,000 a year or more are required to pay their employees overtime. This also applies to businesses that sell goods over state lines.

Overtime Entitlement Under the Massachusetts Blue Laws

Previously, certain retail employees had a higher hourly wage rate on Sundays and certain holidays. That requirement has been altered. Now, hourly retail employees are entitled to a rate of 1.5 times their normal hourly rate for the hours they work over 40 a week, including their overtime hours on a Sunday or holiday under the Massachusetts Blue Laws.

It is important to note that only certain retail businesses are allowed to operate on Sundays or holidays.

Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, some certain employees and occupations are not entitled to state overtime pay. Here’s the list of occupations exempt from overtime:

  • Janitors
  • Caretakers who live on residential property and earn at least $30 per week
  • Golf caddies
  • Newsboys
  • Child actors or performers
  • Some executive, administrative or professional workers
  • Outside salesmen
  • Learners, apprentices, or handicapped people under a special license
  • Fishermen and seamen
  • Switchboard operators
  • Truck drivers or helpers with maximum hours established by the ICC
  • Seasonal workers with 120 days or less
  • Gasoline station employees
  • Restaurant staff
  • Garagemen except for parking lot attendants
  • Hospital employees
  • Staff in non-profit schools, colleges, or summer camps
  • Farmers and agricultural laborers
  • Employees in amusement parks work 150 days or less per year.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA),  there are also certain employees and occupations that are exempt from overtime pay. 

These include executive employees earning a salary and making at least $684 per week, administrative employees earning a salary and making at least $684 per week, highly compensated employees making over $107,432 per year, learned and creative professionals earning a salary and making at least $684 per week, computer employees working on a salary basis and making at least $684 per week, and outside sales employees.

Retaliation Protection from Overtime Claims in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts overtime law, employees are protected from retaliation if they choose to report their employer for overtime violations. 

There are legal consequences if an employee is dismissed or treated differently for complaining about their overtime pay. It is possible to file a lawsuit for higher-value retaliation damages if the dismissed employee remains unemployed for more than a month.

Statute of Limitations For Unpaid Overtime Claims in Massachusetts

According to Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations for filing a complaint regarding overtime (or other unpaid wages) is 3 years.

Penalties for Not Providing Overtime Pay to Employees in Massachusetts

For unpaid overtime wages, Massachusetts overtime law allows employees to request a penalty equal to three times the amount their employer should have paid them in overtime wages.

It is advisable to consult with an attorney regarding overtime violations as penalties may vary based on the severity of the case.

Legal Cases Relating to Overtime Compensation in Massachusetts

Below, we present law cases relating to fair overtime compensation for employees in Massachusetts: 

1. Court Officer Sues Trial Court for Not Providing Overtime Compensation

In the case of Donahue v. Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, William Donahue, a court officer under the Trial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Trial Court), alleged that he was not paid compensation for his hours worked overtime. Donahue claims that this is a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Massachusetts Wage Act, and the Massachusetts overtime law.

The Trial Court sought to dismiss these allegations stating that “sovereign immunity” barred the claim. The Trial Court stated that Donahue’s FLSA claims were blocked by sovereign immunity. The court judge agreed with the Trial Court.

The court also analyzed Donahue’s claims under the Massachusetts Wage Act. This Wage Act required that employers pay wages to certain employees, including “mechanics, workmen, and laborers” or those employed in a “penal or charitable institution. The court found that Donahue’s job as a court officer did not fall within any of that category. The courthouse was also not considered a penal institution. 

Lastly, the court claimed that Donahue’s allegation of violation of the Massachusetts overtime law is invalid. The court stated that the state overtime law does not provide a private right of action, which means that individuals cannot bring a lawsuit solely based on the violation of this law. 

Overall, the court dismissed all of Donahue’s common-law allegations.

Key lessons from this case:

  • Sovereign immunity protects the government from being sued without its consent. 
  • Massachusetts overtime law does not provide a private right of action, meaning individuals cannot bring a lawsuit under this statute to recover unpaid overtime.
  • The Massachusetts Wage Act governs the payment of wages to employees in the state.
2. Restaurant Staff Seeks to Claim Unpaid Overtime Compensation From Employer

In the case of Devaney v. Zucchini Gold, LLC, three former employees filed a lawsuit against their employer, Zucchini Gold (Zucchini). The former employees claimed that they were not compensated for their overtime hours. The former employees worked as servers and cooks at Rice Barn, operated by Zucchini, and allegedly routinely worked more than 40 hours a week. Besides failing to pay overtime wages, Zucchini had also allegedly failed to keep proper records of their employees’ hours worked.

Zucchini argued that the former employees were not entitled to overtime pay because they were exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements. Zucchini also argued that the former employees were not entitled to overtime pay under the Massachusetts Wage Act as well because the Rice Barn was not a “retail establishment.”

The case went to trial, and the jury decided to favor the former employees. The jury awarded the former employees their overtime back wages and liquidated damages.

Zucchini appealed this verdict, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the verdict. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA. The court found that the plaintiffs were not exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirements because they were not “executive, administrative, or professional” employees. The court also determined that the Rice Barn was a “retail establishment” for purposes of the Massachusetts Wage Act and that the plaintiffs were therefore entitled to overtime pay under that statute as well.

Key lessons from this case:

  • Employers need to properly and accurately maintain employees’ records to avoid legal disputes.
  • Employees have the right to seek legal recourse for any unpaid overtime wages.
  • Employees and employers need to know their federal and state labor laws to avoid misinterpreting their rights.
3. Massachusetts State Police Disagree with Unpaid Overtime Lawsuit Against Them

In the case of State Police Association of Massachusetts v. Alben, the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) and several state troopers filed a complaint against two Massachusetts State Police (State Police) and Massachusett Port Authority (MassPort) officials for not providing overtime compensation. MassPort was contracting with the State Police for police services at Logan International Airport, which is where the troopers worked. 

The troopers argued that they were entitled to overtime pay under the Massachusetts General Laws (GL) that mandate time-and-a-half for overtime work by State troopers. However, the State Police and MassPort officials argued that the troopers were not entitled to overtime pay because their work was covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA was an agreement between the State Police and MassPort stating that a lower rate of pay was given for work performed at the airport.

The trial court ruled in favor of the State Police and MassPort but the case was appealed by the troopers. Despite that, the judgment remained the same as the CBA’s terms for work took priority over the overtime rate required by the state law. The court ordered the dismissal of this case.

Key lessons from this case:

  • This case shows how the terms of the CBA can take precedence over conflicting provisions in state statutes, including overtime pay requirements.
  • Employees need to be made aware of their work hours and how much they will be compensated for it.
  • Employment contracts should clearly outline the terms and conditions regarding overtime.

Learn more about Massachusetts Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.