Massachusetts Wage Act

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).

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As published in NEHRA News (3/21/2019)

The Massachusetts Wage Act provides that an employee who “prevails” in an action to recover unpaid wages “shall … be awarded the costs of the litigation and reasonable attorneys’ fees.”  This “fee-shifting” provision is an exception to well-established “American Rule” under which each party bears his or her own attorney’s fees, win or lose.  In cases where the employee wins at trial, the application of the Wage Act’s fee-shifting provision is clear: the employee will recover his or her attorney’s fees.  But what happens when the case doesn’t go to trial, and instead, the parties resolve the matter through a negotiated settlement in which both sides compromise?  Has the employee “prevailed” in that situation?  Is he or she entitled to recover attorney’s fees?


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