On April 14, 2008, an amendment to the Massachusetts wage act provided for the award of mandatory triple damages (known as “treble damages” in legal speak) where employers violated the wage and hour laws. In other words, where an employer violates the law, for example by failing to pay an employee his or her wages or overtime pay or by misclassifying an employee as exempt from the overtime laws, judges are required to triple the award to the employee without considering whether the company’s violation was intentional. The amendment not only raised the stakes for employers in individual claims, but also significantly increased the exposure to employers in class action lawsuits where the claims have been brought on behalf of multiple employees.
The 2012 Massachusetts budget plan released by the House Ways and Means Committee seeks to tie punitive damages to intentional violations on the part of employers. This would reverse the mandatory triple damages requirement and again give the courts discretion in determining whether to award punitive damages against employers.
Maura Greene is a Boston employment lawyer and may be reached at 617-936-1580. Law Office of Maura Greene, LLC, Six Beacon Street, Suite 205, Boston, MA 02108. Call us, we’re friendly!