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Last updated on: November 6th, 2023

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

The Fair Labor Standards Act defines the workweek as a fixed and recurring period of 168 hours comprised of seven consecutive 24-hour periods that do not need to coincide with the calendar week. It is adjustable only if the change is designed to be permanent. Each week is considered on its own for purposes of calculating overtime. The hours of two or more weeks may not be averaged. 


Employees in Massachusetts are governed by the provisions of FLSA and State Law. In accordance with FLSA, the standard working hours are 40 hours per week.


Employers can adjust an employee’s clock-in and clock-out times to the nearest five minutes, one-tenth, or quarter of an hour, as long as this method of calculating working hours balances out over a reasonable timeframe, ensuring that employees receive full compensation for the actual time they put in.


Reporting Pay

When an employee who is scheduled to work 3 or more hours reports for duty at the time set by the employer, and that employee is not provided with the expected hours of work, the employee shall be paid for at least 3 hours on such day at no less than the basic minimum wage.


On-call Time

All on-call time is compensable working time unless the employee is not required to be at the worksite or another location, and is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes.


Sleeping Time and Working Shifts

An employee required to be on duty at the work site for less than 24 hours is working even if the employee is permitted to sleep or engage in other personal activities when not busy.


Travel Time

Ordinary travel between home and work is not compensable working time. If an employee who regularly works at a fixed location is required to report to a location other than his or her regular worksite, the employee shall be compensated for all travel time in excess of his or her ordinary travel time between home and work and shall be reimbursed for associated transportation expenses.


If an employer requires an employee to report to a location other than the worksite or to report to a specified location to take transportation, compensable work time begins at the reporting time and includes subsequent travel to and from the worksite.


An employee required or directed to travel from one place to another after the beginning of or before the close of the workday shall be compensated for all travel time and shall be reimbursed for all transportation expenses.


Recording Requirements – The employer shall keep a true and accurate record of the employee’s name, complete address, social security number, occupation, amount paid each pay period, hours worked each day, rate of pay, vacation pay, any deductions made from wages, any fees or amounts charged by the employer to the employee, dates worked each week, and such other information as the Labor Authority deems necessary.


The records shall be kept on file for at least 3 years after the entry date of the record.


Any work performed beyond 40 hours in a work week is considered overtime work.


Pay– An employee is entitled to premium pay at the rate of 1.5 times their regular rate for all hours worked excess in a workweek.


Employers may not require employees to work more than 6 hours in a calendar day without providing them a 30-minute break for a meal. The break period may be unpaid if employees are – 

      • free from all duties and
      • free to leave the workplace during the break.

An employer must compensate an employee at least minimum wage for the 30-minute break if the employee has voluntarily agreed to forgo the break period by

        • working through their break or
        • remaining on the premises during the break at the request of the employer even though no work is performed.

Penalty – A violation of the mealtime provision is subject to fines between $300 and $600. 


Where an employee is required to be on duty at the work site for 24 hours or more, the employer and employee may agree in writing prior to the performance of the work to exclude bona fide meal periods and a bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours from working time, provided the employer provides adequate sleeping quarters and the employee can enjoy an uninterrupted period of sleep. If no prior written agreement is made, sleeping time and meal time will constitute compensable working time.


Weekly RestAn employee is entitled to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest, which shall include a consecutive period comprising the hours between 8 o’clock in the morning and 5 o’clock in the evening every 7 consecutive days.

If an employer fails to give weekly rest days to their employees they shall be liable for violation resulting in a fine of $300.

Furthermore, prior to opening on Sundays, every employer must display a schedule at the workplace, indicating which employees are assigned to work on Sundays and specifying a day of rest for each. No employee can be compelled to work on their designated rest day.


Breastfeeding BreakEmployers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions, including lactation and the need to express breast milk.


Breaks may either be paid or unpaid under the law. However, if the employer does provide paid breaks to employees, the employer must allow the employee to use those paid breaks to breastfeed or express breast milk.

Sunday Work

Retail Establishments

Retailers may open at any time on Sunday without the need for approval by the Department of Labor Standards, and without the need for a local police permit, except for retailers of alcoholic beverages, which may not open until 10 a.m. on Sunday.


Any retail establishment which operates on Sundays is subject to the following 2 restrictions:


Premium pay:  Retailers that employ more than 7 people, including the owner, are required to compensate employees who work on Sundays, except for bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees, at a premium rate.


Sundays-Retail Establishments: Sunday Premium pay which is based on an employee’s “regular rate of pay” as of January 1, 2020, is 1.3 times the hourly rate.


Regardless of the number of employees, retailers cannot require employees to work on Sunday, and an employee’s refusal to work may not be grounds for discrimination, dismissal, discharge, reduction in hours, or any other penalty. Non-retail establishments Unless a non-retail business falls within one of the exemptions in M.G.L. c. 136, § 6, it is not allowed to operate on Sundays.


However, for all businesses, a permit for work on Sundays may be issued by the police chief of the city or town where the business is located. A permit may be issued only for “necessary work or labor which could not be performed on any other day without serious suffering, loss, damage, or public inconvenience, or which could not be performed on any other day without delay to military defense work.” M.G.L. c. 136, § 7. Additionally, pursuant to M.G.L. c. 149, § 51A, manufacturers may petition the Attorney General for a temporary exemption from the Sunday work restriction.

Public Holidays

An employee is entitled to the following public holidays:

      • New Year’s Day
      • Martin Luther King Day
      • President’s Day – (Third Monday of February)
      • Memorial Day
      • Independence Day
      • Labor Day
      • Columbus Day
      • Veterans Day
      • Thanksgiving Day
      • Christmas Day

If a Public Holiday Falls on a Sunday, the holiday will be observed on the following Monday.


Pay: A permit is not required for work, but certain conditions related to premium pay and voluntary employment must be met. Premium pay rates differ based on the holiday. Retailers with over 7 employees must provide premium rates as follows:

      • For Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, starting from January 1, 2020, the rate is 1.3 times the hourly wage.
      • For New Year’s Day, Columbus Day before 12 p.m., and Veterans Day before 1 p.m., the rate, is 1.5 times the hourly wage.

Annual Leave

Vacation payments are wages. Employers who offer vacation should have clear, written vacation policies. They should give each worker a copy of the policy when the worker is hired and ask the worker to acknowledge in writing that the worker understands the policy.


Termination Under the Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149 § 150, a terminated employee is entitled to be paid all wages, including accrued vacation time, on the day of termination, and the failure to do so makes the employer liable for mandatory treble damages and attorneys’ fees, as the Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled in Reuter v. City of Methuen.

Special Leave

Earned Sick Leave

Employees who work for employers having eleven or more employees may earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per the calendar year, while employees working for smaller employers may earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per the calendar year. Earned sick time shall be provided by an employer for an employee to:

      • Care for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse, who is suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or
      • Care for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition that requires home care, professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventative medical care; or
      • Attend the employee’s routine medical appointment or a routine medical appointment for the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parents of spouse; or
      • An employer shall provide a minimum of one hour of earned sick time for every thirty hours worked by an employee to address the psychological, physical or legal effects of domestic violence. Employees shall begin accruing earned sick time commencing with the date of hire of the employee or the date this law becomes effective, whichever is later, but employees shall not be entitled to use accrued earned sick time until the 90th calendar day following commencement of their employment. On and after this 90 day period, employees may use earned sick time as it accrues.
Unpaid Leave
Employees may be eligible to take unpaid, job-protected, leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Please refer to main United States page for further details on this Federal law.
Service Member Family Leave

An eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered servicemember shall be entitled to a total of 26 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period to care for the service member. The leave described in this paragraph shall only be available during a single 12-month period.

Jury Duty Leave

Employers must grant paid leave to all regularly employed employees for jury service. An employer must pay an employee regular wages for the first three days of juror service unless a court excuses the employer from the duty to compensate because of extreme financial hardship.

Firefighter Leave

Employers must allow employees to be late or absent from work if they are volunteer firefighters who responded to an emergency that occurred outside of the employees’ normal work hours. Certification requirements apply. Leave is unpaid.

Military Leave

In addition to USERRA, Massachusetts law provides the following job protections for military members: • Discrimination protections for all military members; and • Job protections for eligible veterans who wish to participate in Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day events. Employers with 50 or more employees must provide paid leave to veterans participating in Veteran’s Day activities (effective July 14, 2016). Employees must provide reasonable notice. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may provide leave paid or unpaid, at the employer’s discretion.

Witness and Victim Leave

An employer must grant leave to an employee who is a victim of or witness to a crime and who is subpoenaed to testify in a criminal proceeding. Notice requirements apply.

Domestic Violence Leave

An employer shall permit an employee to take up to 15 days of leave from work in any 12 month period if:

            • The employee, or a family member of the employee, is a victim of abusive behavior; or
            • The employee is using the leave from work to seek or obtain medical attention, counseling, victim services or legal assistance, secure housing, obtain a protective order from a court, appear in court or before a grand jury, meet with a district attorney or other law enforcement official or attend child custody proceedings or address other issues directly related to the abusive behavior against the employee or family member of the employee.
Parental Leave

This leave applies to all parents, men, and women, whose employers have six or more employees. Under the law, parents are eligible for 8 weeks of leave per child. If both parents work for the same employer, they shall only be entitled to 8 weeks of leave in the aggregate for the birth or adoption of the same child. Leave may be with or without pay at the discretion of the employer.

Small Neccesitative Leave

An eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 24 hours of leave during any 12 month period, in addition, to leave available under the federal act, to:

          • Participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a son or daughter of the employee, such as parent-teacher conferences or interviewing for a new school;
          • Accompany the son or daughter of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments, such as check-ups or vaccinations; and
          • Accompany an elderly relative of the employee to routine medical or dental appointments or appointments for other professional services related to the elder’s care, such as interviewing at nursing or group homes. An eligible employee may elect, or an employer may require the employee, to substitute any of the accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave of the employee for any of the leave provided under this section, but nothing in this section shall require an employer to provide paid sick leave or paid medical leave in any situation in which the employer would not normally provide any such paid leave. Leave under this section may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule.
Veteran Day and Memorial Day Leave

Veterans may be entitled to paid or unpaid leave from work on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Voting Leave

Massachusetts laws require that employees who apply be granted a leave of absence to vote during the two hours after the polls open in their districts. Payment for voting time is at the discretion of the employer. Most employees have time to vote before or after work. One or two hours in most cases is the maximum time needed to vote. Employees should explain their reasons for needing more time and may also be requested to prove that they have voted by providing the name of the precinct where they cast their ballot.

MASS-Paid Family and Medical Leave

Duration of Leave: PFML stands for Paid Family Medical Leave. It’s a state-offered benefit for anyone who works in Massachusetts and is eligible to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave for medical or family reasons.

Eligibility Criteria of leave: PFML is available to covered individuals who work in Massachusetts. Covered individuals include:

      • W-2 workers who work in Massachusetts, whether they are full-time, part-time, or seasonal.
      • Self-employed individuals
      • 1099-MISC workers who work in Massachusetts, do not qualify as independent contractors, and who make up more than 50% of their employer’s workforce. 

    Employees have the option to use their accrued paid leave (i.e., sick, vacation, personal leave) to supplement their PFML benefits while on a PFML-qualifying leave.

    Entitlement of the leave: Paid family leave may be taken to:

        • Care for a sick family member
        • Bond with a newborn child
        • Bond with a child after adoption or foster care placement
        • Manage family affairs when a family member is on active duty in the armed forces.
        • Paid medical leave may be taken to: Manage a personal serious injury or illness.
      Donor Leave

      An employee of the commonwealth or of a county, or of a city or town, may take a paid leave of absence of not more than 30 days in a calendar year to serve as a solid organ donor. (§149:33E).

      Disclaimer: The material provided above is for informational purposes only and is subject to change. We endeavor to keep all material up-to-date and correct but make no representations about the information's completeness, accuracy, or reliability. Laws vary by jurisdiction and are subject to change and interpretation based on individual factors that may differ between organizations. The material is not meant to constitute legal advice and we suggest you seek the advice of legal counsel in connection with any of the information presented.