Wage Practice Basics
Case Strategy
MA W&H Law
Grab Bag

Cases in which an employee has not been adequately compensated for the work she has performed during the course of an employment relationship

What are wage and hour cases? OR What is wage theft?


Two of the most common defenses used by employers

What are 1) client is an independent contractor and not an employee or 2) statute of limitations?


The minimum wage in Massachusetts

What is $13.50 per hour?

Interpretation resources available to 303s

What are other 303s, Catholic Charities, Melissa, College interns, Language Line, etc.


Minimum wage of a tipped employee

What is the employee must still be paid the minimum $13.50/hour when tips are included? 

Additionally, the employee must be informed of this law. If employees make less than minimum wage with tips included, employers must compensate so that employees receive minimum wage per shift, not "per pay period."


Our recurring community partnership meetings occur with these organizations on these days and times

Chelsea Collaborative - biweekly on Wednesday from 6-8

Justice at Work - last Tuesday of each month from 6-8


List at least 3 advantages and 3 disadvantages of bringing a case in small claims court


• Can file any claim less than $7,000 in MA small claims court                                                              

• Lower filing fee

• Cases move relatively quickly and are relatively informal

• Can recover treble damages and attorney's fees just like in state court


• No right of appeal and no right to a jury trial

• Most cases that we accept have potential damages over $7,000

• The process, while informal, is different than what we are used to in state court proceedings

• Cases can be handled by other organizations or pro se litigants, so our resources might be better used elsewhere

• An employer is unlikely to change her policies towards other employees as a result of a small claims loss


How overtime pay is calculated

What is 1.5 times the hourly pay?


These two limitations apply to wage and hour clients just as they apply to family and housing clients

What are geographic and financial eligibility constraints?


Current minimum service rate for MA employees 

What is $5.55?


This organization provides strategic workplace-related services to community based labor organizations in order to support and encourage low-wage immigrant workers to organize and directly impacts conditions at work and in their communities and families

What is Justice at Work?

Name three adjacent legal issues you may encounter while litigating your wage case

OSHA - workplace safety complaints must be filed within 6 months

MCAD - employment discrimination (3 year SoL)


Contractual issues - unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, etc.

Section 7 - right to engage in activities for purpose of collective bargaining


Employers in Massachusetts must keep time files for at least this long

What is two years after the entry date of record?


List three of our community partners

-Chelsea Collaborative


-Justice at Work


-Somerville Workers Center



Statute of limitations for a wage claim in MA

What is three years?
The two main laws we leverage to tackle wage theft (state and federal)

MA Wage Act

Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA)


Run through the life of a "traditional" wage case

What is:

(1) intake

(2) demand letter

(3) AG complaint/private right of action

(4) filing/litigating

(5) collecting


Factors to consider if somebody is an independent contractor (or ABC test)

*List three factors to receive credit

What are the following factors that indicate an IK?

1) Is he free from employer control?

2) Does he perform work outside the normal course of the employer's business?

3) Is he routinely engaged in an independent business?


Most common 5 languages many wage and hour clients speak

What are Portuguese, Spanish, Creole, Mandarin, and Cantonese?


List five ways to investigate ERs

-Sec. of Comm. corporation lookup

-Better Business Bureau

-AGO Fair Labor Enforcement database



-Register of Deeds

-Google, social media, LinkedIn, etc.


The elements you will want to include in a Complaint

*List all 9 elements to receive credit

1) Caption

2) Introduction

3) Jurisdiction and Venue

4) Parties

5) Statement of Facts

6) Causes of Action

7) Jury Demand

8) Prayer for Relief

9) Signature Block


Correct court to file wage and hour claim

What is varies depending on the jurisdictional and venue issues of the case?


M.G.L. c. 149 § 148 states that EEs must be paid:

-What is: within six days of the end of the pay period OR every week or every two weeks for hourly EEs


Questions you should ask at the "intake stage" related to the client's employment.

*Half credit (200 points) for 5 correct questions

*Full credit (400 points) for 10 correct questions

• Where did the client work?

• What type of tasks was the client asked to do? 

• What was the client’s actual schedule?

• How many days did she work? Was this constant?

• How many hours did she work? Was this constant?

• Did the client get meal breaks? Were they paid? How long were they?

• Did the client get vacation days? Were they paid?

• Did the employer keep track of the hours worked? If so, how?

• Did the client keep her own records or notes of hours worked? If so, does she have them?

• Did anyone else see the client working during those hours?

• Does the client still work there? If not, what happened?

• How many employees work for that employer?

These questions largely draw from “Checklist for Evaluating and Pursuing a Wage and Hour Case,” prepared by the Greater Boston Legal Services, Employment Law Unit, October 2009.


Run through an equitable tolling argument

(Addresses SoL, addresses employer failing to inform EEs, etc.)

Click to zoom