The Purpose of the AG Wage Complaint Form:
A wage complaint form must be filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office because the law requires it. Section 150 of Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws states:
An employee claiming [unpaid wages] 90 days after the filing of a complaint with the attorney general, or sooner if the attorney general assents in writing, and within 3 years after the violation, institute and prosecute in his own name and on his own behalf, or for himself and for others similarly situated, a civil action for injunctive relief, for any damages incurred, and for any lost wages and other benefits. An employee so aggrieved who prevails in such an action shall be awarded treble damages, as liquidated damages, for any lost wages and other benefits and shall also be awarded the costs of the litigation and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
The law is a great example of bad writing and legalese, but the point is that a person must file a form with the AG to get the right to sue in court for treble damages, i.e. three times the wages. Note: if you get in touch with us, and we think you have a strong case, we will file the AG form for you.
How to get the form and what to do with it:
While a simple Google search will bring you to the form that must be filed with the attorney general before bringing a Wage Act claim in Massachusetts, the instructions are not always clear. Previously, people sometimes thought they couldn’t file the form because they didn’t have pay slips and other documentation. The previous PDF form required that employees submit that documentation by stating: “Before we can process your complaint, our office must receive full and complete information from you. Please check to make certain you have provided the following…Copies of pay stubs.” The form also states that you must know the exact amount you’re are owed and “if you claim unpaid vacation, include a copy of your employer’s vacation policy.” However, now the new web-based form does not require the submission of those materials, but they remain essential to your case, so please preserve all records in your possession related to your claim for unpaid wages or overtime.
What happens after you file the AG form:
About one to two weeks after filing the form, either on paper or online, you will receive a letter in the mail from the AG’s office, giving you the right to sue in court. Although we help people with the form itself, many people come to us after receiving this letter. Although many people don’t expect this, the Attorney General will usually not take any action itself and will only direct you to find a private lawyer to sue. That’s where we come in. Once the lawsuit is filed in court, your leverage increases because only then are you entitled to treble damages if you win your case, because an “employer is not required to pay treble the lost wages and benefits if the wage and benefit payments were tardy but made before suit was brought.” Dobin v. CIOview Corp., No. CIV.A. 2001-00108, 2003 WL 22454602, at *7 (Mass. Super. Oct. 29, 2003).
Contacting us before or after you submit the Attorney General form:
You are free to contact us before or after you fill out the AG wage form, but it generally is more beneficial to contact us beforehand. The reason why is that we know what to include in the form to get your private right of action letter, and we know what not to include in the form that could be later used against you by your employer. In our experience, people often underestimate their claim when filling out the form themselves. As you employer often will later obtain a copy of your submission to the Attorney General, it pays to have an experienced wage and hour lawyer correctly crafting that submission. Feel free to contact us for a free review at 617-338-9400, including help completing the AG wage complaint form.