Massachusetts Restaurant Employees’ Private Right to Sue

Nov 18, 2011

Restaurant employees in Massachusetts, such as servers, bartenders, cooks and hosts enjoy a private right to sue to recover unpaid wages and tips.  However, Massachusetts requires that employees who are owed wages or tips first file a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.  The employees can then pursue the case  in court either by asking permission to pursue the case, or by waiting 90 days after filing.  This is called a “private right of action,” or a private right to sue.  The employee will want to get a “right to sue” letter from the Attorney General’s office before filing in court.

Massachusetts law favors employees, such as waitstaff, bartenders, cooks and hosts who have not been paid wages.  Employees who prove in court that they are owed the wages must be paid three times the amount that they are owed.  This is called triple (or “treble” in lawyer-speak) damages.  Employees can also seek attorney’s fees and costs of litigation, such as the cost to file the complaint.  I find that employees are often surprised at how much they are owed – and how small amounts of wages owed over a period of time add up.

There are time limits, called “statutes of limitations” for filing claims.  Depending upon the amount of the claim, it should be filed in small claims court, district court or the Superior Court.

If you have any questions about the information in this blog post, or about the employee’s private right to sue their employer for unpaid wages and unpaid tips, please contact Massachusetts employment attorney Maura Greene, Law Office of Maura Greene, LLC, Six Beacon Street, Suite 205, Boston, MA 02108 617-936-1580 or maura@mauragreenelaw.com.   Maura Greene has been on the list of Super Lawyers for the past five years and is AV-rated, which is a peer review rating and is the highest rating an individual attorney can achieve. Call us, we’re friendly!  

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