Massachusetts Employers Be Warned: Telling Employees “Your Wages are Coming, Your Wages are Coming” May Lead to Treble Damages

On April 4, 2022, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held, in Reuter v. City of Methuen, that employers are strictly liable for treble wages as liquidated damages if they fail to make timely payments upon an employee’s termination of employment in compliance with the Massachusetts Wage Act. With its holding, the Court rejected a longstanding trial court precedent that employers who failed to make timely wage payments were liable only for treble interest.

The Massachusetts Wage Act

Section 148 of the Massachusetts Wage Act requires employers to pay unpaid wages to any employee discharged from employment “in full on the day of [the employee’s] discharge.” Mass. Gen. L. C. 149 § 148. As an enforcement mechanism, the Act provides a private right of action for employees and mandates that employees who prevail on § 148 claims “shall be awarded treble damages, as liquidated damages, for any lost wages and other benefits and shall be awarded the costs of litigation and reasonable attorneys’ fees.” The Act specifically defines “wages” to include, among other things, “any holiday or vacation payments due an employee under an oral or written agreement.”

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