New Law Helps Workers Recover Unpaid Minimum and Overtime Wages

Law Assists workers in recovering wages that they have fairly earned through extension of the statute of limitations, further deters employers from acting unlawfully

BOSTON– Governor Patrick signed legislation that will enable Massachusetts law to keep pace with the federal standards and make it easier to protect the rights of workers who are wrongly denied wages by their employers.

S858, An Act establishing uniform wage compliance and record keeping, sponsored by Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), will change the statute of limitations governing minimum wage and overtime violations from the current two years to three years to match the three-year statute of limitations governing nonpayment of wages.

Additional protections include an extension of the payroll record retention requirement from two to three years in order to ensure that payroll records are available. The new law also provides the Attorney General’s office with time to properly investigate and resolve a matter through the tolling of the statute of limitations during the pendency of an investigation or enforcement action.

“We all know the hourly wage is a key lifeline for many of our state’s hardest workers,” said Senator Eldridge. “After leading this five-year effort and as the standard of living increases for thousands by raising the minimum wage, I am proud that this bill will update our employment laws to match federal standards and will deter dishonest employers from taking advantage of workers, especially our minimum wage and overtime workers in the Commonwealth.”

“This new law will assist underpaid workers, most of whom already work for low wages, to receive wages they lawfully earned so they can provide for themselves and their families,” said Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Daniel Wolf (D-Harwich). This protection is long overdue, and I commend my colleague Sen. Eldridge for his vision and leadership on this issue.”

“This legislation sponsored by Senator Eldridge is an important step toward ensuring Massachusetts’ workers are getting paid for their work,” said Diego Low, Coordinator of the MetroWest Worker Center. “These simplifications of the employment laws strengthen workers’ rights, discourage wage theft, and thereby protects businesses that treat their workers lawfully, from unfair competition.”

“For many years, we’ve struggled to see why our state laws provide less protection to our lowest paid hourly workers – those making minimum wage and overtime – than for everyone else,” said Philip Gordon, Legislative Chair of the Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association. “We’re thrilled the legislature and the governor enacted this extension.”

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