Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that the 2008 amendment to the state’s Wage Act is not retroactive. As a result, claims involving work that straddles the July 2008 effective date of the rewritten law will be governed by two different standards. For damages related to work that occurred prior to July 2008, a plaintiff employee will be required to persuade the court to double or triple the sum awarded. Any damages for work performed after July 12, 2008 will be automatically tripled by law.
The Wage Act amendment came in response to a 2005 SJC decision that held the award of triple damages under the Act was discretionary, not mandatory as was previously believed by most employment lawyers. Indeed, several lower courts interpreted the old version of the Act to require an award of triple damages. After the SJC concluded otherwise, the Massachusetts state legislature amended Mass. Gen. L. ch. 149, s. 150 to clarify its language and require triple damage awards. The law also requires the award of legal fees to a prevailing employee.