Wage & Hour Violations Face Mandatory Treble Damages

Wage and hour violations will be taken seriously in Massachusetts. Bill S.1059 proposed that treble damages must be awarded to plaintiffs who prevail in wage and hour lawsuits. On April 14, 2008, the bill was enacted into law. The new law essentially reverses the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling in Wiedmann v. The Bradford Group, Inc., which held that treble damages should only be awarded where the employer’s conduct was “outrageous, because of [its] evil motive or [its] reckless indifference to the rights of others.”

S.1059’s enactment followed an interesting course. The Massachusetts Legislature initially submitted the bill to Governor Deval Patrick in February 2008. Governor Patrick returned the bill without signature and urged that certain exceptions be provided, which the Legislature rejected. Governor Patrick ultimately declined to veto S.1059.

The new law states that employees who prevail in court “shall be awarded triple damages, as liquidated damages, for any loss of wages and other benefits.” The treble damages provision applies to a host of wage and hour violations:

Payment of wages, including commissions and vacation pay
Overtime pay for nonexempt employees
Minimum wages
Improper deductions
Misclassification of employees as independent contractors
Tip pool sharing
Retaliation for asserting wage complaints

To read more about mandatory treble damages in Massachusetts, please visit Forbes’ article entitled, Massachusetts Passes Bill Restoring Triple Damages for Non-Payment of Wages.