Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

“Earned Wages” Not The Equivalent of “Back Pay” Under Massachusetts Wage Act

Written by: Andrew P. Botti

Published in the NEHRA Newsletter (5/9/2019)

The Supreme Judicial Court has just recently made it abundantly clear that for liability to hold under the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, §148, “[t]he work must have been actually performed and wage payments must be presently due to trigger the precise requirements and severe penalties” available under the Act.  The case is Calixto v. Coughlin, 481 Mass. 157 (2018).

In Calixto, several hundred employees were terminated at the same time in violation of the Federal WARN Act, 29 U.S.C. §2101-2109 (2018).  The WARN Act requires sixty day notice to employees of a mass layoff.  Failing that, the employer is liable to each laid-off employee for back pay.  The terminated employees in Calixto filed a class action against the defunct corporate employer in federal court under the WARN Act and obtained a $2,000,000.00 default judgment.  Unable to collect same, the former employees then brought a class action in state Superior Court directly against the failed corporation’s officers, contending that the WARN Act judgment constituted earned wages under the state Wage Act.  The case was dismissed by the Superior Court.

On appeal, the SJC held that the term “wages earned” under the Wage Act has a very specific meaning.  For liability to hold under the Wage Act, an employee must have already completed “the labor, service, or performance required of him,” i.e. he must have earned the subject wages.  The SJC found that “[t]he extraordinary relief the Wage Act provides – individual liability, treble damages, and possible criminal liability – is directed at particularly egregious behavior, i.e. not paying wages for work actually performed, and not at other employment violations.”  Thus the Court made clear that earned wages are not the equivalent of back pay.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.