Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as a salaried employee in Massachusetts?

April 9th 2024

Grasping a deep understanding of what your rights are as a salaried employee in Massachusetts is essential to determining a successful journey in your professional life. 

Your compensation, as you log in your daily work hours, holds significant weight over your position in the workplace. It’s worth emphasizing that workplace norms and agreements can vary substantially across different U.S. states. You might find yourself questioning what your employment rights are and how to effectively exercise them

In this article, you will find the necessary information and resources to navigate your work environment in line with the specific workplace regulations in Massachusetts.

This Article Covers

Defining a Salaried Employee in Massachusetts
Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Massachusetts
Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Massachusetts
Wage and Hour Regulations in Massachusetts
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Massachusetts
Taking Action Against Violations in Massachusetts
Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Massachusetts

Defining a Salaried Employee in Massachusetts?

What is Salaried Employment in Massachusetts?

In line with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and labor laws in Massachusetts, salaried employees are workers who are entitled to receive a predetermined amount of compensation at regular intervals, such as biweekly or monthly. Additionally, some salaried employees may also be eligible for sick leave pay, and many of them meet the requirements to receive benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Certain salaried employees are considered exempt from certain labor regulations. These include executives, administrators, professionals with specialized skills, computer professionals, outside sales personnel, and highly compensated employees. However, if you’re a salaried employee without one of these roles, you may be classified as non-exempt and entitled to overtime compensation.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in Massachusetts?

Aspect Salaried Employees Hourly Employees
Minimum Wage Laws Paid a fixed amount regardless of hours worked. Subject to the minimum wage in Massachusetts of $15/hour. 
Overtime Laws Overtime eligibility varies. Salaried workers can be classified as exempt under FLSA for certain positions. Eligible for overtime for work hours exceeding 40 hours in a workweek.
Paid Sick Leave & FMLA Salaried pay may include sick leave; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid sick leave and use it with unpaid FMLA leave.
Paid Vacation Salaried pay may include vacation; specifics vary by employer. May earn paid vacation based on hours worked and employer policies.
Maternity/Paternity Leave May have unpaid provisions; duration and specifics vary by agreement with the employer. No guaranteed paid leave; terms depend on the employer’s policies.
Job Security Salaried employees typically enjoy more job security. Less job security as the work schedule can change.

Learn more about your rights as an hourly employee in Massachusetts and Massachusetts salaried employee laws.

Common Questions About Salaried Employee Rights in Massachusetts

What are the Basic Rights of Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

Here is a list of some of the basic rights of salaried employees in Massachusetts:

  • If non-exempt salaried workers exceed 40 hours a week, they must get paid 1.5 times their usual hourly rate for overtime.
  • Eligible salaried employees can take unpaid leave under FMLA for certain family or medical reasons, without losing their job. In Michigan, you need to apply for this leave if you’ll be away for five or more consecutive days.
  • Salaried employees should have a 30-minute uninterrupted rest break for every six hours worked.
  • Employers can’t discriminate or create a hostile workplace based on protected characteristics.
  • In Massachusetts, public employees can report workplace fraud, waste, or abuse under the Whistleblower Act, and their identity will be kept secret during the investigation by the inspector general.
  • Employment is “at-will”.
  • Pregnant employees are protected against discrimination.

Is Overtime Pay Applicable to Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

Some salaried employees can be exempt from overtime pay, but not all roles are exempt. The state follows federal definitions for four specific categories:

  • Professionals: These include employees with advanced knowledge and experience in their field, and they use this expertise to manage departments in their organization.
  • Executives: Executives also have advanced knowledge and expertise, and they have the authority to make decisions about hiring and firing.
  • Computer Employees: This category includes roles like software engineers, computer programmers, and analysts.
  • Administrative Employees: These are people who work in areas like accounting, quality control, human resources, personnel management, or labor relations.

For an in-depth understanding of this topic, you can access our guide on Massachusetts overtime laws.

Can Employers Deduct Wages from Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

No, employers in Massachusetts cannot deduct money from a worker’s pay unless the law allows it under certain circumstances. This includes deductions like wage withholding taxes, or the worker asking for a deduction to be made for their benefit, such as putting money aside in the worker’s savings account. An employer cannot take money from a worker’s pay for the employer’s ordinary business costs.

Are Salaried Employees Eligible for Breaks and Leaves in Massachusetts?

Employees in Massachusetts are entitled to a minimum 30-minute meal break if they work more than six hours in a day. Employees should be relieved of all work-related responsibilities during their break and should have the freedom to leave their workplace. It’s important to note that this break may be unpaid.

If employers choose to request that employees work through their meal breaks, they must be compensated for their time. However, the employer is also permitted to make it a requirement to take a break. Meal breaks can also be used for personal activities, including prayer.

In Massachusetts, most employees are entitled to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave per year to attend to health and family needs. Employers who provide vacation benefits must establish written policies that detail these benefits. Employees should be made aware of these upon their hiring and should acknowledge in writing that they understand these policies.

Additionally, there is a provision for small necessities leave, which allows workers to take up to 24 hours of unpaid leave within 12 months for specific reasons. This applies if the employer has a workforce of 50 or more employees, and the employee has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for the same employer in the past year.

It’s essential to note that this leave is separate from the 12 weeks of leave permitted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Can Salaried Employees Request Flexible Work Arrangements in Massachusetts?

Flextime is a flexible work system that’s part of the Massachusetts Alternative Work Options Program. This program allows state employees in Massachusetts to have more control over when they work. There are different flexible work arrangements offered in the program, these include working part-time, staggered work hours, job sharing, and flexible hours.

With flextime, employees can decide when they start and finish work, as long as they follow management guidelines. This system allows employees to come in and leave work at different times. If someone needs to go to the doctor or handle personal stuff during work hours, they can make up for it by working more on another day, as long as they work a total of 37.5 hours or 40 hours in a week. Part-time workers have similar flexibility but must meet their weekly hour commitment.

Understanding Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status in Massachusetts

Understanding the distinction between exempt and non-exempt status is crucial for salaried employees to navigate their rights and responsibilities effectively.

What is the Definition and Implications of Exempt Status in Massachusetts?

Following regulations set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), some salaried employees are not entitled to receive extra pay for working overtime. This means that if they work more than 40 hours a week, they cannot receive additional compensation. On the contrary, if an employee is classified as non-exempt, it means they have the right to receive overtime pay for every minute worked beyond 40 hours in a week.

What are the Differences Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

Aspect Exempt Employees Non-exempt Employees
Entitlements Exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay. Non-exempt employees have the right to overtime pay.
Minimum Wage Exempt employees are entitled to a $15 minimum hourly wage. Non-exempt employees receive at least minimum hourly wage.
Overtime Compensation Exempt employees do not qualify for overtime pay. Non-exempt employees receive overtime pay at 1.5 times their regular rate for specific hours.
Meal and Rest Breaks Exempt employees are entitled to a 30-minute break for every 6 hours worked in a single day. Non-exempt employees are entitled to specified meal and rest breaks as per the labor laws in Massachusetts.
Salary and Status Interaction Exempt status often necessitates a salary surpassing the minimum wage. Non-exempt status involves adherence to minimum wage laws and other legal protections.

How to Determine if You're Exempt or Non-Exempt in Massachusetts?

To determine if you are considered an exempt or non-exempt employee in Massachusetts, you must apply the criteria set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • Salary Level Test: If your annual salary exceeds $35,568, which is equivalent to $684 per week, you might qualify for exempt status.
  • Salary Basis Test: If you receive a guaranteed minimum compensation, regardless of the actual hours you work, you might be considered exempt.
  • Duties Test: To be classified as exempt, you must meet the requirements outlined in the first two tests and also perform job duties that fall under the exempt category. These duties may include executive responsibilities involving administrative tasks, the regular supervision of two or more employees, and professional tasks that require specialized education, as well as the exercise of discretion and judgment.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Massachusetts

What are the Minimum Wage Requirements for Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

The standard minimum wage in the state of Massachusetts stands at $15.00 per hour for the majority of employees.

Service workers, who receive tips, are also entitled to receive this minimum wage. There are instances where an employer may compensate service workers at a service rate of $6.75 per hour. Nevertheless, the combined sum of both hourly tips and the hourly service rate should meet the minimum wage. If the combined sum does not meet the minimum wage per hour, the employer is obligated to pay the difference.

Agricultural workers in Massachusetts are entitled to a minimum wage of $8.00 per hour.

How is Overtime Compensated for Salaried Employees in Massachusetts?

Most workers who work longer than the standard 40-hour workweek are entitled to receive overtime compensation. These employees should receive 1.5 times the standard hourly wage for each hour worked beyond the 40-hour threshold.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Massachusetts

What are the Permissible Deductions from Salaried Employee Pay in Massachusetts?

Employers are not permitted to deduct money from an employee’s wages to cover standard operational expenses like supplies, materials, or tools. Additionally, there are legal prohibitions regarding when and how much an employer can withhold from an employee’s pay for providing lodging and meals. If an employee is required by their employer to purchase or rent a uniform, they must either cover the uniform’s cost or reimburse the employee for the funds used.

What are the Provided Employee Benefits and Protections Under Massachusetts State Law?

Employees in Massachusetts are entitled to a range of benefits and protections under state law, which include the following:

  • Protection Against Discrimination: Massachusetts laws ensure that no one can treat you unfairly or harass you at work because of factors such as your gender, race, age, or other protected elements.
  • Sexual Harassment: It is against the law in Massachusetts for anyone to sexually harass you at work. Your workplace should be free from any form of harassment or hostility. 
  • Fair Treatment for Disabilities: If you have a disability, the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices law makes sure that your employer cannot discriminate against you. They must provide reasonable accommodations unless it’s too difficult for them.
  • Genetic Discrimination: Your genetic information, like the results of genetic tests, cannot be used against you when you’re applying for a job or getting insurance in Massachusetts. 
  • Parental Leave and Pregnancy: If you work for an employer with at least six employees in Massachusetts, you have the right to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This rule applies to all employees, no matter their gender.
  • Religious Accommodations: Employees are permitted to request accommodations to practice their religion if it involves specific beliefs or practices.

Taking Action Against Violations in Massachusetts

How to Report Violations to Authorities or Labor Departments in Massachusetts?

If you believe that an employer has not adhered to labor laws, you have the option to submit a formal complaint to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). Circumstances that may lead an employee to contemplate complaining include unpleasant matters like unpaid earnings, discrimination, retaliation, and more.

Additionally, situations such as the non-receipt of final paychecks, unpaid vacation hours following the termination of employment, unauthorized deductions from paychecks, and violations of meal and rest break regulations can all justify an employee filing a complaint.

Case Studies and Real-Life Scenarios of Salaried Employee Rights Violations in Massachusetts

1. Employee Disability Discrimination: Massachusetts Employer Forced to Pay $24 Million for Disability Discrimination

In the Lisa Menninger v. PPD Development L.P. case, the plaintiff, Lisa Menninger, held an executive position at a laboratory services company where she provided operational leadership. The company informed Lisa that her role would change to include more client visits, social interactions, and presentations. This announcement triggered Lisa’s anxiety disorder, and she presented a doctor’s note to the company, stating that these changes would make it extremely challenging, if not impossible, for her to perform her job.

Both parties made substantial efforts to engage in the interactive process. The company broke down Lisa’s job duties into different categories to assess how she could perform each task. Lisa’s doctor recommended specific accommodations for each duty. The company eventually concluded that while they could accommodate some aspects of her job, they couldn’t grant all the requested accommodations, as they were central to her job responsibilities and the company’s needs.

A few months later, Lisa’s doctor advised her to take medical leave, and she remained on leave for eight months, six of which were fully paid. Subsequently, the company terminated her employment, leading Lisa to file a disability discrimination lawsuit against the company. The company argued that her case should be dismissed because her doctor had stated she couldn’t perform the job, and the requested accommodations were unreasonable.

The court denied this motion, stating that there was still a question about the extent of essential functions and whether Lisa could perform some of them. Ultimately, the jury ruled in favor of Lisa, finding the company liable and awarding her $24 million in various forms of compensation.

Lessons Learned from the Case

  • Careful Assessment of Essential Functions: Employers must meticulously evaluate which job functions are truly essential and cannot be reasonably accommodated for employees with disabilities. It’s essential to engage in a detailed analysis rather than making assumptions based on initial medical assessments.
  • Thorough Interactive Process: Employers should engage in a thorough interactive process with employees requesting accommodations. This includes considering and discussing possible accommodations in detail, as well as involving medical professionals when necessary, to explore all options.
  • Potential Consequences of Incomplete Accommodation: This case highlights the importance of taking all reasonable steps to accommodate employees with disabilities. Even when employers make substantial efforts, failure to provide adequate accommodations may lead to significant legal liability, including substantial financial penalties.
2. Employee Discrimination and Retaliation: Massachusetts Pays $28 Million to a Nurse

On May 23, 2018, a jury in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, Massachusetts, rendered a verdict against Brigham and Women’s Hospital, holding them responsible for retaliation. They subsequently granted a substantial monetary award of $28 million to a nurse involved in the case.

The lawsuit originated in 2014 when two Haitian-American nurses filed a joint legal action against Brigham and Women’s Hospital, namely, Gessy Toussaint and Nirva Berthold. Berthold contended that her application for a higher-paying position in 2013 was rejected based on her race. Toussaint, aged 70, claimed that she faced retaliation from the Hospital after she advocated for Berthold’s rights. It’s worth noting that Toussaint’s claims were separated from Berthold’s, with the latter set to be addressed in a subsequent trial later in the same year.

During the two-week trial about Toussaint’s allegations of discrimination and retaliation, she asserted that the Hospital initiated an investigation into her work-related complaints only after she had come to Berthold’s defense. The Hospital had not addressed any of these complaints with Toussaint before she supported Berthold’s case.

While the jury ruled in favor of the Hospital regarding the discrimination claims, they granted Toussaint a significant award, which included $463,000 for lost wages, $2.75 million for emotional distress, and $25 million in punitive damages. Brigham and Women’s Hospital intends to appeal this substantial $28 million verdict.

Lessons Learned from the Case

  • Importance of Non-Retaliation: This case underscores the significance of maintaining workplace environments where employees are free to voice concerns without fear of retaliation. Retaliation can lead to legal consequences and substantial financial penalties for employers.
  • Fair Treatment in Employment: Organizations need to ensure that their employment practices are free from discrimination based on factors such as race. Discrimination in hiring or promotion decisions can result in costly legal battles and damage to an organization’s reputation.
  • Judicial Outcomes and Appeals: The case illustrates the legal process and the potential for differing outcomes between discrimination and retaliation claims within the same case. It also emphasizes the right of parties to pursue appeals in the event of unfavorable judgments, prolonging legal proceedings, and financial implications.

Final Thoughts

As a working professional in Massachusetts, it is crucial to hold a deep understanding of your legal rights and protections. This knowledge not only helps safeguard you from potential violations but also empowers you to safeguard yourself and your career.

Staying updated on alterations in labor laws is essential for creating a positive workplace atmosphere. Due to the intricacies of employment regulations, seeking expert advice through consultations with an employment lawyer, reaching out to the U.S. Department of Labor, or contacting the Office of the Labor Commissioner can steer you in the right direction.

Explore our detailed guides on Massachusetts Labor Laws and Massachusetts Salaried Employee Laws to learn more.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.