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From Boston Bar Journal - Workers’ Rights Keep Pace With Corporate Practices: Recent SJC Decisions Expand Reach of Wage & Hour Laws

by Jocelyn B. Jones 

Case Focus

Only 20 years ago, criminal prosecution was the sole means of enforcing the Massachusetts wage and hour laws. But the enforcement landscape has changed dramatically since 1993, when enforcement authority was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office from the former Department of Labor & Industries, and employees were authorized to initiate private lawsuits, in which those who prevailed were entitled to treble damages and attorneys’ fees, among other remedial measures. A further transformation took place in 1998, when the Attorney General was granted civil citation authority and monetary penalties for violations were enhanced, and with them, greater deterrence was set into play. The Legislature’s addition of these enforcement mechanisms in the 1990s increased  the development of wage and hour related case law, particularly at the appellate level. This rather dramatic expansion of case law in the wage and hour arena has accompanied the crystallization of the viewpoint expressed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) that these legal protections are to be interpreted broadly, to ensure that the laws accomplish their underlying goal of guaranteeing that all workers receive their earned wages.  Consistent with this view, two recent SJC decisions underscore the expansive reach of the wage and hour laws’ protections.

LLC Managers & Wage Act Liability

In Cook v. Patient Edu, LLC, et al., the SJC addressed an issue of first impression about whether managers of a Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) may be held personally liable for violations of the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, §148. A former employee brought suit in Superior Court against the LLC, as well as two of its managers, for unpaid wages. Relying on the statutory language and the express legislative purpose of protecting employees from long-term wage detention, the SJC concluded that “[b]ecause a manager or other officer or agent of an LLC…” may be a “person having employees in his service,” if he “controls, directs, and participates to a substantial degree in formulating and determining policy” of the business entity, he may thus be civilly or criminally liable for violations of the Wage Act.

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Labor & Employment Law Committees

  • Employment Law Committee
  • Labor & Employment Communications Committee
    This committee publishes information relevant to the labor & employment bar. If you are interested in an editorial position or publishing an article, please contact us.

    Contact Information

    Robert Alan Fisher

    Foley Hoag LLP

    (617) 832-1000

    Brian J MacDonough

    Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon, LLP

    (617) 4472809

    Vanessa K. Hackett

    Littler Mendelson, PC

    (617) 780-7427

  • Labor & Employment Education Committee
    Help develop relevant and innovative educational sessions led by a diverse group of talented speakers who cover labor and employment law issues.

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    Carolina Avellaneda

    Fisher College

    (617) 2368859

    James S. Weliky

    Messing, Rudavsky & Weliky, PC

    (617) 742-0004

    William E. Hannum

    Schwartz Hannum PC

    (978) 623-0900

    Elizabeth A. Rodgers

    Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz LLP

    (617) 742-7010

  • Labor & Employment Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Labor & employment attorneys are often asked to lend their expertise.

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    Rachel Reingold Mandel

    Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

    (617) 994-5700

    Katherine J. Michon

    Shilepsky Hartley Robb Casey Michon, LLP

    (617) 723-8000

  • Labor & Employment Public Service Committee
    This committee focuses on practice are specific pro bono trainings and brown bag programming.

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    Nicole Corvini

    Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

    (617) 994-5700

  • Labor Law Committee
    This committee is composed of lawyers for management, unions and individuals. It focuses on traditional labor issues in the private and public sector, and is responsible for monitoring legal developments in the area of labor law and presenting educational programs in this area.

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    Justin F. Keith

    Greenberg Traurig, LLP

    (617) 310-6230

    Ingrid Nava

    SEIU Local 615

    (617) 878-7445

  • Non-Compete & Trade Secrets
    The Non-Compete &Trade Secrets Committee works to ensure that attorneys are kept apprised of developments in this constantly evolving area of business and employment law, whether in the form of judicial precedent, legislative mandate or business practice.

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    Jennifer Catlin Davis

    Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

    (617) 227-7031

    Christopher J. Perry

    Morse, Barnes-Brown & Pendleton, PC

    (781) 622-5930

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    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Wage & Hour Committee
    This committee keeps the community up to date on wage and hour developments and trends.

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    Julie McCarthy

    Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research

    (617) 871-4142

    Jocelyn Jones

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General