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Labor and Employment Law Overview: Massachusetts

Navigating the complex web of workplace rights state laws and regulations can be challenging for employees and employers alike. In Massachusetts, these rights are established to promote a safe and fair working environment for all. In this informative and easy-to-understand blog post, we will discuss Workplace Rights in Massachusetts, focusing on key areas such as wage and hour laws here, working hours, discrimination, and more.

Labor and Employment Law Overview

1: Massachusetts Wage Laws and Fair Compensation

In Massachusetts, workers have the right to a fair minimum wage, which can go up or down depending on inflation and other factors. The minimum wage is set to $15 per hour on January 1, 2023. Both employees and employers need to know what the current minimum wage is in order to follow the law.

Different minimum wage rules apply to people who get tips. As of 2023, tipped employees who make more than $20 a month in tips must be paid a minimum wage of at least $6.75 per hour. Employers must make sure that an employee’s wages or wages plus tips meet or go above the standard minimum wage and minimum fair wage law. Find more about Massachusetts minimum salary requirement at the official Government Website

2: Overtime Regulations

Under the Massachusetts Overtime Law, workers who put in more than 40 hours per week are entitled to extra pay. Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times the regular hourly wage of the worker. Some employees, like salaried employees or professionals, may not have to be paid extra for working over 40 hours. Employers need to know about these exemptions to stay out of trouble with the law.

3: Meal Breaks and Rest Periods in Massachusetts

Massachusetts law says that employees who work more than six hours straight must get a 30-minute break for lunch (Source: During the pay period of this meal break, employees must have nothing to do at work. If the employee isn’t completely let off the hook or works through their meal break, the employer has to pay them for that time.

Aside from meal breaks, employees may also be able to take time off to rest. Even though rest breaks aren’t required by law, they are considered a best practice to improve employee health and productivity. Every four hours of work, employers should think about giving short breaks of about 10–15 minutes.

4: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Massachusetts has strict laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are required to maintain a workplace that is free from sexual harassment and must pay employees take all complaints seriously. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Employers should establish and enforce clear policies addressing sexual harassment, provide regular training for employees, and promptly investigate and address any complaints. In regard to sexual harassment , employers who employ six or more employees must have established policies in place to protect workers from sexual harassment. Set guidelines are already available at the Massachusetts’s commission against discrimination.

Employees who experience sexual harassment have the right to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

5: Paid Sick Leave in Massachusetts

Massachusetts requires employers with 11 or more employees to provide paid sick leave, while smaller employers with exempt employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Eligible employees can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave per year at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Sick leave can be used for various purposes, including personal illness, medical appointments, or to care for a family member. (Source:

Employees can begin using their accrued sick leave after 90 days of employment, and are allowed to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave to the next year. Employers must inform employees about their sick leave rights and maintain accurate records of sick leave accrual and usage. You can find a sample Earned Sick time policy here.

Earned sick time shall be provided by an employer for an employee to (1) care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; attend the employee’s routine medical appointment.

A very detailed Overview of frequently asked Questions for Paid leave in Massachusetts you will find here:

6: Family and Medical Leave

Massachusetts has a comprehensive family and medical leave policy called the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program. This policy provides employees with up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave per benefit year. The PFML program is funded through payroll deductions from earned wages and provides partial wage replacement during the unpaid, family medical leave down period.

Massachusetts workers with average quarterly earnings of $5,700 in 2022 or $6,000 in 2023 are covered by the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML). In addition, your lifetime earnings must be at least thirty times the benefit amount.

Independent contractors have the option of joining through MassTaxConnect.

Most workers in Massachusetts can get up to 26 weeks of family and medical leave in one benefit year. If you have a good reason, you can take time off. A qualifying reason is the reason or event that makes you unable to work and eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits. In addition, the PFML program provides flexibility in how you schedule your leave. You can take it all at once or a few days at a time per week.

Reasons that count are:

  • Taking care of your own serious health condition, as certified by a health care provider, such as an illness, injury, or pregnancy/childbirth (up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave)
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition, as certified by a health care provider, such as a serious illness, injury, or pregnancy/childbirth (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)
  • Getting close to your baby in the first year after birth, adoption, or placement (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)
  • Helping a family member who was hurt while serving in the military (up to 26 weeks of paid family leave)
  • Taking care of business while a family member is serving in the military (up to 12 weeks of paid family leave)

Your benefit year is unique to you and depends on when you use any type of leave. Your benefit year starts the Sunday before your first day of leave and lasts for 52 weeks. Your benefit rate is based on the benefit year, and it stays the same even if you file multiple applications or take different types of leaves. The benefit rate won’t change until the beginning of a new benefit year.

7: Legal Holidays

Legal holidays, which are also called public holidays, are days set aside by the government to remember important events or honor cultural traditions. In Massachusetts, legal holidays are a big part of the culture, and both employees and employers should know what holidays are celebrated in the Commonwealth.

Legal Holidays in Massachusetts

The following is a list of legal holidays in Massachusetts:

  1. New Year’s Day (January 1)
  2. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Third Monday in January)
  3. Presidents’ Day (Third Monday in February)
  4. Patriots’ Day (Third Monday in April)
  5. Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  6. Juneteenth Independence Day (June 19)
  7. Independence Day (July 4)
  8. Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  9. Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  10. Veterans Day (November 11)
  11. Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  12. Christmas Day (December 25)

In addition to these Massachusetts also observes other special days, such as Evacuation Day (March 17) in Suffolk County, and Bunker Hill Day (June 17) in Suffolk County. Employers and employees should be aware of any local holidays that may apply to their specific region or industry.

Calendar Labor Law

Implications for Employees and Employers

In Massachusetts, private employers are not required by law to provide employees with paid time off or premium pay (e.g., overtime pay) for work performed on legal holidays. However, many employers choose to offer some paid leave on holidays as a benefit to their employees, either as a matter of company policy or as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Public employers, on the other hand, may have specific requirements regarding employee contributions and paid time off, depending on the terms of their employment contracts or applicable regulations.

Retail businesses in Massachusetts are subject to the Blue Laws, which regulate certain business activities on Sundays and legal holidays. These laws may require businesses to pay premium wages to employees who work on Sundays or certain holidays, and may also prohibit or restrict some businesses from operating on specific holidays.

8: Voting Leave

Voting is a fundamental right and civic responsibility in the United States, and many states have implemented laws to ensure that employees can exercise this right without fearing adverse consequences at work. In Massachusetts, while there is no specific law requiring employers to provide voting leave, employees and employers should still be aware of their respective rights and responsibilities when it comes to voting during working hours. This article will discuss voting leave in Massachusetts, including best practices for employers and employees.

Voting Leave in Massachusetts

There is no law in Massachusetts that says employers have to give workers paid or unpaid time off to vote during work hours. But the state does have a law that could affect some workers, especially those in the manufacturing, mechanical, or retail industries.

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 149, Section 178, workers in these industries can take off two hours of work when the polls are open if they want to. This law only applies to some employees, and only if they have asked for time off in advance and their work hours are the same as the polling hours.

But it’s important to know that this rule doesn’t apply to all Massachusetts employees, and there’s no law that says employers have to give paid time off for voting.

Best Practices for Employers

Even though Massachusetts law does not require voting leave for all employees, employers may still choose to implement policies that facilitate voting for their employees. These policies can be a sign of good corporate citizenship and can help foster a positive work environment. Some best practices for employers include:

  1. Providing flexible scheduling options on Election Day to allow employees time to vote before or after work.
  2. Offering paid or unpaid time off for employees to vote, particularly if their work schedules make it difficult for them to vote outside of working hours.
  3. Encouraging early voting or the use of absentee ballots for employees who may not be able to vote on Election Day.
  4. Posting information about voting rights and polling hours in the workplace to ensure that employees are informed about their options.
  5. Creating a workplace culture that promotes civic engagement and encourages employees to participate in the electoral process.

9: Discrimination and Workplace Equality

In Massachusetts, employers are required to maintain a workplace free from discrimination based on a variety of protected characteristics. These include:

Race Color
Religious creed National origin
Ancestry Sex
Gender identity Age
Criminal record (inquiries only) Disability
Sexual orientation Genetics
Active military status Pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions

Employers must ensure that their own hiring practices, promotion, termination, and compensation practices do not discriminate against individuals based on these protected characteristics. Employers should also provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or pregnancy nursing child-related conditions, allowing them to perform their job duties effectively.

To promote workplace equality, employers should establish and enforce clear policies addressing discrimination, provide regular training for employees and supervisors, and promptly investigate and address any complaints. Employees who believe they have experienced discrimination can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

10: Workplace Safety and Workers’ Compensation

Massachusetts workers and employers must adhere to all federal and state laws and regulations to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. Key aspects of workplace safety include:

Compliance with OSHA:
Employers must follow the rules set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). These rules include standards for workplace safety, communicating hazards, and training employees. Employers are required to find and fix hazards in the workplace, give workers the safety gear they need, and teach them how to be safe.

Injury and Illness Prevention:
Employers should set up a program to find and fix possible hazards in the workplace, lower the risk of accidents, and improve the health of their workers. This program should include regular inspections of the workplace, training for employees, and the creation of plans for dealing with emergencies.

Workers’ compensation:
If an employee gets hurt on the job or gets sick because of their job, they may be able to get benefits from workers’ compensation. These benefits can help pay for things like medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and in some cases, permanent disabilities. In Massachusetts, employers must have workers’ compensation insurance to pay for these costs.

Reporting and Keeping Records:
Employers must report serious injuries or deaths at work to OSHA within certain time limits and keep records of injuries and illnesses caused by work. Employers can use these records to find patterns and trends that can help them improve safety.

11: Employee Privacy Rights

Massachusetts law protects employees’ privacy rights in the workplace. Key aspects of employee privacy rights federal and state law include:

Personal Conversations:
Employers should respect employees’ privacy by not monitoring personal conversations or eavesdropping on private discussions without consent. While employers may have legitimate reasons to monitor workplace communications for business purposes, they must balance this need with employees’ privacy rights.

Electronic Privacy:
Employers may monitor employee use of company-owned devices, such as computers and smartphones, for legitimate business reasons. However, they must provide clear notice of their monitoring policies and avoid accessing personal information without a valid reason. Employees should be cautious about using company-owned devices for personal activities.

Personal Searches:
Employers cannot conduct unauthorized searches of employees’ personal belongings, such as purses, wallets, or lockers. Searches should only be conducted with a valid reason and should be limited in scope to avoid invading employees’ privacy.

Background Checks and Credit Reports:
Employers in Massachusetts may conduct background checks on job applicants and employees, but they must obtain written consent before doing so. Additionally, employers are restricted in their use of credit reports for employment purposes and must follow both federal law and state guidelines to avoid violating employees’ privacy rights.

12:Fluctuating Workweek Method (FWW) in Massachusetts

The fluctuating workweek method (FWW) is a way for non-exempt employees with irregular work schedules to figure out how much overtime pay they should get. Employers can use this method to pay employees for overtime in a cost-effective way while giving employees some freedom over their work hours. But not all states agree that the FWW method is the best way to do things. In this article, we’ll talk about the fluctuating workweek method and how it works in Massachusetts. We’ll also talk about the pros and cons for both employers and workers.

Overview of the Fluctuating Workweek Method

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law that sets minimum wage and overtime pay, says what the FWW method is and how it works. Under the FWW method, a worker’s hours may change from week to week, but their salary stays the same, no matter how many hours they work. When an employee works more than 40 hours in one pay period a week, they are owed overtime pay. But the overtime rate is based on their regular pay, which is found by dividing their weekly salary by the number of hours they actually worked that week.

When using the FWW method, the overtime rate goes down as the number of hours worked goes up. This could save employers money on overtime pay. For employers to use the FWW method, they must meet certain requirements:

  • The worker must have different work hours each week.
  • The worker must get a fixed salary that stays the same no matter how many hours they work.
  • The fixed salary must be enough to pay for all hours worked at or above the minimum wage.
  • Both the employee and the employer need to know that the fixed salary is meant to cover all hours worked in a week, whether they are more or less than 40.
  • For every hour worked over 40 in a workweek, the worker must get at least half of their regular rate of pay in overtime pay.

Changes in the Massachusetts Workweek Method

In general, Massachusetts follows the FLSA when it comes to overtime laws, and the FLSA does allow the fluctuating workweek method. But there isn’t much information about how the FWW method works in Massachusetts, and the state’s courts haven’t said much about it. Because of this, employers in Massachusetts should be careful when they use the FWW method.

Before using the FWW method, employers in Massachusetts should talk to a lawyer to make sure they are following both federal and state wage and hour laws. Employers should also think about possible downsides, like employees not being happy with a variable overtime rate, and weigh these against the cost savings that might be possible.

13: Unlawful employment practices in Massachusetts

Illegal employment practices in Massachusetts violate federal and state laws protecting workers. Common illegal employment practices include:

Discrimination: Mistreating employees based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, criminal record (inquiries only), disability, sexual orientation, genetics, active military status, pregnancy, and pregnancy-related conditions.

Harassment: Unwelcome conduct based on protected characteristics, including sexual harassment, which includes unwanted sexual approaches, demands for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical sexual activity.

Retaliation: Punishing employees for reporting discrimination or harassment, submitting a workers’ compensation claim, participating in an inquiry, or engaging in protected union activities.

Wage and Hour Violations: Not paying minimum wage, overtime, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, or limiting meal breaks and rest periods as required by Massachusetts law.

Family and Medical Leave Violations: Denying qualified employees family or medical leave under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program, the FMLA, or other leave regulations.

Failure to Accommodate: Not offering appropriate accommodations for disabled or pregnant staff, such as modified work schedules, breaks, or temporary transfers to less difficult roles.

Invasion of privacy: Monitoring workers’ private chats, obtaining private information without authorization, searching employees’ personal possessions, or inappropriately running background checks or credit reports.

Unsafe Work Environment: Not complying with federal and state workplace safety rules like OSHA or not providing workers’ compensation insurance as required by Massachusetts law.

Interference with Employee Rights: Stopping employees from organizing, joining, or assisting labor groups and collective bargaining.

Whistleblower retaliation: Punishing workers who disclose unlawful activity, workplace safety issues, or other wrongdoing to authorities.

14: Health insurance continuation in Massachusetts

Health insurance is a critical benefit for employees, providing them with access to medical care and financial protection in the event of illness or injury. In Massachusetts, employees who lose their jobs or experience a reduction in work hours may be eligible for health insurance continuation under state and federal laws. This article will discuss health insurance continuation in Massachusetts, including the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Massachusetts Mini-COBRA Law, and what employees and employers need to know about these important protections.

COBRA Continuation Coverage

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) mandates some businesses to continue group health insurance coverage for employees and their families who lose coverage due to a qualifying event like job loss, reduced work hours, or divorce. COBRA covers private-sector businesses with 20 or more workers and state and municipal governments.

COBRA allows qualified individuals to keep their health insurance for 18 or 36 months, depending on the qualifying event. COBRA recipients must pay the whole premium, including any employer-paid share, plus a minor administrative charge.

Massachusetts Mini-COPRA

The Massachusetts Mini-COBRA Statute applies to firms with less than 20 employees and supplements COBRA. Small companies must give continuation coverage to employees and their families who lose coverage due to a qualifying event like job loss or reduced work hours.

The Massachusetts Mini-COBRA Legislation lets qualified people keep their health insurance for 18 months. Mini-COBRA recipients must pay the whole premium, including any employer-paid share.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in Massachusetts have specific responsibilities when it comes to health insurance continuation, including:

  1. Providing employees with information about their rights to continuation coverage under COBRA or the Massachusetts Mini-COBRA Law.
  2. Notifying the health insurance plan administrator of a qualifying event, such as an employee’s termination or reduction in work hours.
  3. Ensuring that eligible employees and dependents receive proper notification of their right to elect continuation coverage and the applicable deadlines for making this election.
  4. Maintaining records related to continuation coverage, including documentation of qualifying events, notifications, and premium payments.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees and their dependents also have responsibilities when it comes to health insurance continuation, including:

  1. Informing the employer or plan administrator of a qualifying event, such as a divorce or a dependent child losing eligibility for coverage.
  2. Electing continuation coverage within the specified time frame, typically 60 days from the date of the qualifying event or the date of the notice, whichever is later.
  3. Paying the required premiums for continuation coverage on a timely basis to avoid cancellation of coverage.
  4. Informing the employer or plan administrator of any changes in personal information, such as address or contact information, that may affect the continuation coverage.


Understanding and complying with Workplace Rights in Massachusetts is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment and avoiding legal pitfalls. Both employees and employers at will employment state should familiarize themselves with these rights to ensure fairness and compliance in the workplace. Remember that labor laws and regulations can change over time, so staying informed and up to date is essential for protecting the rights of everyone involved.

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