2016 sees wage and hour law changes in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has geared up and brought about two major changes to its wage and hour law from this year.


To begin with, the minimum wage has increased from $9.00 per hour in 2015 to $10.00 per hour in 2016. This change has been made effective since January 1, 2016. Resultantly, the minimum wage for tipped employees now stands at $3.35 per hour. Service employees who receive tips of more than $20 per month will be eligible for the service rate. The average hourly tips when added to this service rate will equal at least the minimum wage.


This is the second increase so far out of a three-year legislative program that started in 2015 when minimum wage was increased to $9.00 per hour. The third increase is scheduled to take place in 2017 when the minimum wage would be increased to $11.00 per hour and the service rate to $3.75. However, there are no further plans for any subsequent increases to the minimum wages beyond 2017.


The second change refers to the closing down of the so-called “safe harbor” to the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law with effect from January 1, 2016. The Earned Time Sick Law had come into effect from July 1, 2015. According to the law, all employees were entitled to earnings up to 40 hours of sick time. Consequently, the earned time sick leaves would be paid for employers with 11 or more workers, but would remain unpaid for smaller employers having 10 or lesser employees.


When the Earned Sick Time Law was enacted, the Attorney General announced a safe harbor under which employers would be deemed to be in compliance with the law for remainder of 2015 if their existing paid time off policies met certain minimum requirements. All the employers were required to ensure that all their policies are in full compliance with all the terms of the statute and accompanying regulations when the safe harbor closed on the New Year’s Day. Now, with these two major changes brought forth, the minimum wages as well as the pay for earned sick leaves would serve as an impetus to the employees.



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