Massachusetts Working Time and 4-day Workweek

January 8th 2024

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers.

The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

This article covers:

Laws and Regulations that Govern Employee Working Time in Massachusetts

There are several laws and regulations in Massachusetts that govern employee working hours.

The state has raised the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour, making any wage lower than this amount deemed “oppressive and unreasonable” under the minimum wage regulation.

For non-exempt employees, working over 40 hours in a week entitles them to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate.

Employees in Massachusetts who work 6 hours or more have the right to a minimum 30-minute meal break during which they are relieved from their duties and allowed to leave their work station.

In case an employee is unable to take this break, the employer must compensate them for the time. Employees are also permitted to use this meal period for other activities, like praying.

Furthermore, the state has specific child labor laws that specify permissible work hours, maximum daily and weekly hours, and restrictions for minors under 18.

Learn more about Massachusetts Labor Laws.

Overtime in Massachusetts

Massachusetts adheres to the same regulations imposed by federal law when it comes to overtime. In accordance with federal law, any employee who works more than 40 hours per week must be given overtime pay equivalent to one and a half times their regular rate of pay.

However, employees categorized as “tipped employees” who receive a service rate are only eligible for one and a half times the basic minimum wage as overtime pay, not their service rate.

Furthermore, Massachusetts state law contains certain exemptions that may exclude specific employees from receiving overtime pay.

Even if an employee is not entitled to overtime pay under state law, they may still be eligible for it under federal law. In such cases, the law that grants more benefits to the employee will take precedence.

Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are certain employees and occupations that 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
  • Certain 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 who work 150 days or less per year.

Learn more about Massachusetts Overtime Laws.

Massachusetts 4-day Workweek

In April 2023, two Massachusetts lawmakers, Representative Dylan Fernandes of Falmouth and Representative Josh Cutler of Pembroke, filed legislation (Bill H.3849) to establish a voluntary program for a four-day workweek. The program, called the “Massachusetts Smart Work Week Pilot,” would allow participating businesses to transition some or all of their employees to a four-day week without any loss of pay or benefits.

Overseen by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the program would run for two years and require employers to move at least 15 workers to a 32-hour, four-day workweek while maintaining their salaries. In exchange, participating businesses would receive a tax credit and report regularly on the economic and social impact of the shortened week, including its effect on employee well-being and work-life balance.

To encourage a diverse range of companies to participate, the specifics of the tax credit would be flexible and tailored to each employer’s needs. The pilot program also aims to support businesses run by women, people of color, veterans, and people with disabilities, ensuring state-level funding uplifts these often overlooked enterprises.

While the pilot program is set to run for two years, individual businesses are not obligated to participate the entire time. The Massachusetts legislation does not mandate a strict 32-hour workweek; instead, it requires a significant reduction in employees’ actual work hours.

The legislation is currently under review by a committee and will be discussed in a committee hearing.

The momentum behind the four-day workweek has increased after the pandemic prompted a reevaluation of work arrangements. Worldwide, tens of thousands of workers participated in trials of the shortened workweek to explore potential benefits. Lawmakers are also introducing other bills, like one in California that proposes a standardized 32-hour workweek. However, barriers remain for the widespread adoption of a standardized four-day workweek. For instance, Maryland lawmakers introduced a similar tax incentive program but withdrew it in March due to skepticism about the work model and budget concerns.

Laws on Working Hours for Minors in Massachusetts

When it comes to hiring minors, employers in Massachusetts must adhere to state law and obtain a Youth Employment Permit when hiring individuals under the age of 18. 

This requirement is in addition to following US federal regulations

For individuals aged 16 and 17, work is allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on regular school days, extending until 11:30 p.m. on non-school nights, and until midnight at restaurants or racetracks. They are permitted to work up to 48 hours per week, with a maximum of 9 hours per day and 6 days per week.

As for 14 and 15-year-olds, they may work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during the school term, and until 9 p.m. during the summer break. Their work hours are limited to 18 hours per week during the term, with a maximum of 3 hours per day on school days. On non-school days, they can work up to 8 hours per day and 6 days per week, reaching a total of 40 hours during non-school periods.

Minors working after 8 p.m. must be under adult supervision, except for establishments with on-site security personnel, like shopping malls.

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.