The Massachusetts Wage and Hour Anti-Retaliation Laws can be found in M.G.L. c. 149 § 148A and M.G.L. c. 151 § 19.  Like other laws designed to protect workers, Massachusetts G.L. c. 149, § 148A states that "no employee shall be penalized by an employer in any way as a result of any action on the part of an employee to seek his or her rights under the wages and hours provisions of this chapter."  Massachusetts law clearly makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker if the worker asserts his or her legal rights.  

The Wage and Hour Anti-Retaliation Laws make it illegal for an employer to take any adverse action against an employee who asserts his rights under the Massachusetts Wage Act.  What constitutes an adverse action includes the following:

  • Discharging or firing the employee;
  • Discriminating against the employee by reducing his or her work hours or giving the employee undesirable assignments;
  • Blacklisting or defaming the employee;
  • Giving the employee negative references for future employment that are untrue or inaccurate;
  • Filing or threatening to file a false police report against the employee;  
  • Reporting or threatening to report an employee to immigration authorities; and
  • Threatening an employee or his/her family with these or any other negative consequences or harm.

A claim for retaliation can be brought separately from a claim for unpaid wages, as a recent Superior Court decision made clear.  In Fernandes v. Attleboro Housing Association, a former employee prevailed on a claim that he was underpaid by 50 cents per hour.  The former employee recovered $2,300 in unpaid wages plus an additional $130,000 in lost wages because a jury found he was terminated for complaining about the unpaid wages.  Because the anti-retaliation laws of the Wage Act are interpreted like all other Wage Act provisions, both the award for unpaid wages and the award for lost wages was tripled.  With costs and attorney's fees added in, Mr. Fernandes recovered almost $500,000 in a dispute over 50¢.

If you believe that you have been retaliated against for standing up for your legal rights or you are concerned to exercise your rights because you fear reprisal from your employer, contact a licensed Massachusetts attorney today who can help you navigate the difficult road ahead.