Unpaid Wage and Overtime Retaliation

Under Massachusetts law, when an employee complains about unpaid wages or overtime, he is protected from discharge or other punishment because of the complaint. This protection extends to formal complaints filed in court or with the attorney general, but it also includes protection for making informal written or verbal complaints directly to your employer for violations of the pay laws.

Here are the laws:

Overtime Retaliation: Section 19 of Chapter 151 of the Massachusetts General Laws states that an individual who is punished for an overtime complaint shall recover in a lawsuit at least one month’s wages but no more than two month’s wages. In addition, the individual will receive the costs of the suit and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Of course, employees usually also sue for the unpaid overtime.

Unpaid Wage Retaliation: The damages for unpaid wage retaliation can be significant because lost wages resulting from a retaliatory discharge can be recovered under Massachusetts law, and this recovery is trebled in a court judgment. Attorneys’ fees and costs will also be awarded. In addition to “back pay,” an employee who was the victim of unlawful retaliation can recover “front pay.” So, for example, when an employee is fired for complaining about unpaid wages, and he doesn’t find another job immediately or takes a job making less money, the wages that he lost out on after being fired can be recovered and tripled in a lawsuit. In appropriate cases, an employee can also recover for emotional distress damages.

Section 148A of Chapter 149 of the Massachusetts General Laws makes retaliation unlawful for wage complaints (formal and informal), and Section 150 creates a private right of action and includes the treble damages provision.

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