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Frequently Asked Questions About Employment in Massachusetts

Does my employer have to give me two 15-minute breaks per day?

Must I be paid for time that I am "on call"?

How old must a child be to babysit in Massachusetts?

Must employees be given time off work to vote?

Must employees be paid time and a half for Sunday work?

Can tipped employees be paid less than the minimum wage?

What are an employee's rights during an investigation?

What is the minimum number of hours for which an employee must be paid on a given work day?

I'm an employer. What posters do I need and how do I get them?


Does my employer have to give me two 15-minute breaks per day?

MGL c. 149 s.100 requires a 30 minute lunch period, but does not require breaks. The Boston Globe on 12/7/03 explained: "Although many employers do provide time for one or two breaks during the work day in addition to time for lunch, they are not required to do so. The law in Massachusetts states that an employer must provide a thirty-minute meal break during each work shift that lasts more than six hours. This one half-hour meal break is unpaid. In addition, Massachusetts' law does not require employers to provide any rest breaks."

Must I be paid for time that I am "on call"?

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Fact Sheet No. 22, "Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)", "An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer's premises is working while "on call". An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee's freedom could require this time to be compensated." (Derived from the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 29 sec. 785.17, On-call time.) Nolo.com has a brief article on the topic, Calculating Work Hours, which explains the rules and provides examples.

Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety has this to say:

"If an employee is on-call with a pager, must the employee be paid for this time?

An on-call employee who is not required to be at the work site, and who is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes, is not working while on call and need not be paid. Of course, if the employee is paged and must perform work, the employee must be paid for all hours worked."

How old must a child be to babysit in Massachusetts?

We have been unable to find an applicable Massachusetts law. According to the Federal Department of Labor:

"The FLSA sets 14 as the minimum age for most non-agricultural work. However, at any age, youths may deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie, or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except in mining, manufacturing or hazardous jobs); perform babysitting or perform minor chores around a private home. Also, at any age, youth may be employed as homeworkers to gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths. "

Must employees be given time off work to vote?

Look at MGL c.149 s.178. This law was originally passed in 1887, and has been modified ten times, the most recent being in 1913. There are several research references in the print set of laws, including one to a book called Labor and Employment in Massachusetts: a guide to employment laws, regulations, and practices, 2nd edition, by Jeffrey L. Hirsch (Lexis, 2001). The annotation sends us to page 2-9:

"Time Off to Vote

Massachusetts laws requires that employees who apply be granted a leave of absence to vote during the two hours after the polls open in their districts. Payment for voting time is at the discretion of the employer. Most employees have time to vote before or after work. One or two hours in most cases is the maximum time needed to vote. Employees should explain their reasons for needing more time and may also be requested to prove that they have voted by providing the name of the precinct where they cast their ballot."

Must employees be paid time and a half for Sunday work?

See MGL c.136, s. 6. According to Your Rights on the Job by Robert M. Schwartz, 4th ed. (Labor Guild of Boston, 2000) :

"With the exception of retail stores (see below), employers do not have to pay overtime for Sunday work unless weekly hours exceed 40 or if overtime compensation on Sundays is required by union contract.

Retail stores. Amendments in 1994 allow retail stores to open at any time on Sundays. The following rules apply:

Complaints regarding Sunday work should be made to the Attorney General's Fair Labor and Business Practices Division. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to $1000."

Can tipped employees be paid less than minimum wage?

Yes and no. See 455 CMR 2.02 for detailed information. The minimum wage for tipped employees (that is, employees who receive more than $20 a month in tips) is $2.63 an hour. However, for employers to pay these employees this different minimum wage they must inform the employee of this law and the employee must receive at least the minimum wage as determined by MGL c.151 s. 1 when actual tips and wages are combined. In addition, all tips must be retained by the employee or distributed through a valid tip-pool as defined by MGL c.149 s.152A. If the combined wages and actual tips do not at least equal the regular minimum wage, the employer must pay the employee the difference. MGL c. 151 s. 7.

What are an employee's rights during an investigation?

Government employees have rights under three federal cases:

  1. Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 US 493 (1967). Under Garrity, a government employee cannot be faced with the choice between self-incrimination and termination. If the employee is coerced to speak under threat of termination, the statements cannot be used against him in a subsequent prosecution. According to an FCC source, employees faced with an investigation should be given a "Garrity Warning," in which "The individual is apprised of his or her right to remain silent if the answers may tend to incriminate him or her; that anything said may be used against him or her in either a criminal or administrative proceeding; and he or she cannot be disciplined for remaining silent. " So, in a Garrity situation, the employer gives up their right to discipline the employee for their silence, but retains the right to prosecute the employee for anything they might say. Thus, Garrity is said to cover "voluntary statements."
  2. Kalkines v. United States, 473 F.2d. 1391 (1973). Under Kalkines, a government employer can be required to answer questions, and subject to discipline by the employer for his responses, if the possibility of prosecution has been removed. Apparently, in the Blackwater case, the contractors were given a promise of immunity from prosecution under Kalkines and so were required to answer questions, but now would face only disciplinary, and not criminal, consequences.
  3. NLRB v. Weingarten, 420 US 251 (1975). Union members must be advised of the right to have a representative present if the interview may result in disciplinary consequences.

What is the minimum number of hours for which an employee must be paid on a given work day?

455 CMR 2.03 reads as follows : When an employee who is scheduled to work three or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least three hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage. This provision shall not apply to organizations granted status as charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.

I'm an employer. What posters do I need and how do I get them?

The Department of Labor has a Posters Page that provides links to the posters required by Federal Law.

For state posters, see Poster Requirements at Mass.gov. The Wage and Hour Poster (which includes minimum wage info) is available from the Mass. Attorney General.