State Minimum Wage

Effective January 1, 2015, the minimum wage for non-exempt employees in Massachusetts will increase from $8.00 per hour to $9.00 per hour.  The minimum wage for tipped employees increases to $3.00 per hour. On January 1, 2016, the Massachusetts minimum wage will increase to $10.00 per hour and, on January 1, 2017, will go to $11.00 per hour.

Some neighboring states have also increased their minimum wage.  Specifically, the minimum wage in New York and Rhode Island increases to $9.00 an hour.  The new minimum wage in Connecticut and Vermont will be $9.15 per hour.

Pay for Screening Time

On December 9, 2014, the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided that employees who must go through a security screening before leaving work need not be paid for that screening time.
Employees of a contractor for Amazon who worked in a distribution center were required to go through a security screening at the end of their shift to ensure that they had not stolen any company property.  The company did not pay employees for the time they spent waiting to be screened.  The employees argued that because the screening was required by Amazon and was for the company’s benefit, they should be paid for their time, which they alleged took up to 25 minutes each work day.

The Court ruled in favor of Amazon, holding that federal law only required employees to be paid for work they were “employed to perform”.  The employees in this case were employed to retrieve and package products, not “to undergo security screenings”.The employees had argued that if the company did not have to pay them for the time they waited to be screened, Amazon would have no incentive to speed up the process.  In response, the court opined that such issues should be addressed to the legislature.

Additional Unpaid Activities

The above case demonstrates how difficult it can be to determine for what activities non-exempt employees must be paid and which may be unpaid.  One example of the complexity of this issue involves payment for travel time.

Generally, employees need not be paid for travel time to and from work.  However, if an employee travels during the work day for his/her employer, that time must be paid.

Employees who must travel away from home overnight must be paid for their travel time if it takes place during the employee’s regular work hours — regardless of the day of the week.  Thus, if an employee’s regular work hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, that employee must be paid for all work-related travel away from home that takes place between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., even if that travel takes place on the weekend.    However, employers are not required to pay employees for travel time outside the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. if the employee is traveling as a passenger on an airplane, train, boat, bus, or automobile.   In addition, employers are not required to pay a traveling employee during his/her regular meal time.

Thus, as with the Supreme Court’s recent decision on screening time, employees need not always be paid when they are unable to engage in personal activities due to their employer’s requirements.

If you have any questions about what time is compensable, please do not hesitate to contact us.