Employee Rights: Dealing with Hiring, Minimum Fair Wage Law, Blue Laws and FMLA

Employee rights in Massachusetts have many of the same protections you’ll find in most other states when it comes to the hiring process, payments, medical leave and job termination. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against in your job while residing in Massachusetts, take a look at what rights you actually have. You’ll discover you have more legal protection than you might think.

The Hiring Process

A company that hires someone at will is essentially saying that you can be fired for any reason at any time. Although signing these agreements may not be advisable by an attorney, the fact of the matter is if you want the job you’ll need to sign but perhaps may be able to modify the agreement with your employer. Even if you sign an agreement in order to obtain a job, you still have many rights when fired for other reasons.

For instance, you shouldn’t be fired if it’s because the employer doesn’t want to pay you. Other public policy reasons for wrongful termination in Massachusetts include an employee having to do jury duty, refusing to give information on a fellow employee or testifying at a criminal trial against the company. Outside of those, however, an employer can still fire you for any other reason if you have an at-will agreement.

Minimum Fair Wage Law

If you work in Massachusetts, you’re always entitled to a specific state minimum wage. As of this blog post, it’s still at $8 as it’s been for a number of years. Anything less from an employer is grounds for a discrimination case. The same applies to overtime payment of 1.5 times your regular pay if it goes over 40 hours in a week.

Employers sometimes try to avoid this law, and other employment related laws, by calling their employees “independent contractors.”   A true independent contractor is not an employee and the employer does not have to provide any benefits or minimum wage payment.  However, merely calling someone an independent contractor is not enough.  The Attorney General of Massachusetts has issued guidelines for determining who is an employee and who is an independent contractor.  These guidelines look at the type of work, the amount of true “independence” the worker has, and whether the work is typically done by a separate trade or profession.  The employer’s classification and tax treatment of the employee is irrelevant.

Blue Laws

Massachusetts has its own set of blue laws that pertain to employees working on Sundays. Certain guidelines have to be met that fall under how much pay an employee gets when working on Sundays or holidays. However, no employee will be forced to work on Sundays in Massachusetts. If an employee is threatened to have their pay docked or their job terminated if they don’t work on Sunday, it’s delving into discrimination.

Medical Leave

Federal law provides the Family Medical Leave Act to help employees be able to take medical leave without having their job terminated. The federal side of the law requires that you can only take medical leave if you need to care for a newborn or adopted child, take care of a family member who has an illness, or address your own health problems. In Massachusetts, this can’t apply unless you’ve worked with a company for one year employing at least 50 employees.

If your job was terminated with deliberate disregard for any of the above laws, or you have been denied proper wages at your current job, you are going to need an experienced Massachusetts employment lawyer to help you with a job discrimination case.