The Massachusetts Wage Act is one of the strongest wage laws in the country, protecting employees who don’t receive earned wages, salaries, commissions and other forms of compensation. What makes the law so strong? First and foremost, once an employee files a case for unpaid wages in court in Massachusetts, they are entitled to three times those wages if they win. In addition, the law provides that the employer, and not the employee, must pay for the employee’s attorneys’ fees and court costs. It can be very expensive for employers who fail to pay earned wages.
The steps in collecting unpaid wages are straightforward.
- Keep all the evidence related to your wages, including any and all pay slips, time slips and employment agreement, and any emails, letters or texts from your employer. If your employer is not faithfully keeping track of all of your hours, start keeping a handwritten journal of when you arrive at work each day, when you take breaks, when you return from those breaks, and when you leave for the day. If you are getting paid “under the table,” keep clear and detailed records of the cash you are paid.
- The next step is to fill out a complaint form with the Massachusetts Attorney General. Contact us at 617-338-9400 and we’ll help you do this for no charge. Whether you file the complaint form on your own or with our help, the result will be the same: Because of the large number of wage complaints in Massachusetts, the Attorney General almost always declines to take any direct action, but instead authorizes you in writing to file a private lawsuit.
- That authorization comes in a “Private Right of Action” letter, which you will receive in the mail in a week or two. If we help you, we will also get a copy of the letter in the mail. This letter authorizes you to sue your employer in court. This is very important because your entitlement to three times your wages and attorneys’ fees only arises once your case is actually filed in a court of law (the Attorney General complaint does not count for that).
- Contact us or another private attorney or law firm to take the next steps of preparing and filing a court complaint. Only when this is filed and service of the complaint is made does your employer find out about the case.
- Once the case is in court, the professionals mostly take over. We litigate the case, demanding discovery from your employer to build the evidence required to win. Many cases settle once your employer’s attorney is confronted with the evidence and the law, but in some cases it is necessary to testify at a deposition and at trial.
- Assuming you prove your case and win–or, as is more common, the case settles–you receive your wages and often more (up to three times), and your attorneys get paid by your employer, and the matter is concluded.
These are the basic steps in claiming, reporting and collecting unpaid wages in Massachusetts. We are wage and overtime specialists and when we take on a case, we do so on a contingent fee basis, so feel free to reach out to us for a free case review.