The statute of limitations for a claim for unpaid wages is three years. See M.G.L. c. 149, § 150. The statute of limitations for contract claims is six years, so a claim for unpaid wages can be brought after the three-year period but before the expiration of six years. However, because of the Massachusetts Wage Act’s provision for mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees, employees are well advised to act to bring their claims quickly. The limitations clock starts ticking upon a “violation”–in other words, on the day you should have been paid the wages but weren’t.
Another important Wage Act timing note: a complaint via the Massachusetts Attorney General is a prerequisite to suit. A Wage Act lawsuit can only be brought after the expiration of 90 days after filing a special complaint with the attorney general or more quickly if the attorney general provides you or your attorney with a private right of action letter. Timing is important in a Wage Act lawsuit because filing a complaint in court locks in your entitlement to three times your unpaid wages. That is because Section 150 provides: “The defendant shall not set up as a defense a payment of wages after the bringing of the complaint. ”