If there’s one thing Massachusetts courts are making clear lately, it’s that employers better pay their employees what they earn, and they’d better do it on time. They are slapping those who don’t with triple damage awards, adding 12 percent interest, and ordering them to pay their employees’ legal fees. When the bill comes due, employers have good reason to question both their own judgment and that of the well-paid lawyers who advised them.
The Massachusetts Wage Act now says that triple damage awards to employees are mandatory. Workers who don’t get what’s owed to them on time also get their lawyer fees paid by the company. Courts are running hard on these points, showing little sympathy for employers, even those who make good faith errors, and interpreting gray areas in favor of employees. Employers need to understand this and get good legal advice before withholding disputed wages.
In a case I recently tried, Countrywide Home Loans was ordered to pay my client more than $130,000 after refusing to give him deferred bonuses and commissions that totaled about $30,000. In another case, a local attorney was ordered to pay $519,000 plus interest after he failed to pay a referral fee to another lawyer. In both of these cases, the law was read expansively to favor the plaintiff. The message to employers is clear: when in doubt, settle wage disputes or just pay what’s due to your employees. And, by the way, make sure the lawyer you rely on is well versed in this area of law.
Massachusetts employment lawyer Attorney Jack Merrill provides legal services to employees, employers and businesses throughout the Boston metro west and Worcester County region including Ashland, Dedham, Framingham, Franklin, Hopkinton, Maynard, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Needham, Newton, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Waltham, and Worcester, Massachusetts.