Massachusetts Minimum Wage: Things Are Looking Up

By: Amanda Mathieu

On January 1, 2021, Massachusetts increased its minimum wage to $13.50 per hour (from $12.75 per hour). The Bay State will continue to raise this wage annually in steps ($0.75 per year) to reach a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour in January 2023. Of note, there are numerous circumstances in which different wages may be paid; for example, for tipped employees who make more than $20.00 per month in tips, minimum wage is $5.55 as of January 1, 2021. This minimum wage will also increase in steps to reach $6.75 per hour in January 2023. However, as set forth in Massachusetts law, a tipped employee must be paid at least the Massachusetts minimum wage – currently $13.50 per hour – after accounting for the employee’s tips. See M.G.L. c. 151, § 7.

Additionally, as of January 1, 2021, premium pay for Sunday retail workers decreased from 1.3x the employee’s regular rate to 1.2x. Most retailers that employ more than seven workers, including the owner, are required to pay employees at least a premium rate on Sundays. The decrease in premium pay reflects the increase in the minimum wage, such that by January 2023 premium pay will be eliminated. If any business falls within one of the 55 exemptions that allow work on Sundays (for example, restaurants, pharmacies, and hotels), it may also operate on most legal holidays. The premium pay requirement, while it still exists, will apply to Massachusetts’ newest state holiday, Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19 and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Of note, employers who violate the Massachusetts Minimum Fair Wage Law are liable to their employees for triple damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees, interests, and costs. See M.G.L. c. 149, § 150. As a result, it is critical for employers operating in Massachusetts to understand and stay up to date on minimum wage requirements that apply to their employees and to implement appropriate changes as they arise.

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