Massachusetts overtime law (G.L.c. 151, §1A) requires employers to pay their employees a rate no less than one and one half their regular rate after working longer than forty hours in one week. There are several exceptions including workers employed in a hotel, motel, motor court or like establishment, and in a restaurant.
In a recent case where a plaintiff brought an action against Wendy’s for unpaid wages pursuant to the Massachusetts overtime law, the court held that the statute’s exemption for restaurant workers is inapplicable to the plaintiff who worked as a service technician at Wendy’s.
Wendy’s argument was that the plaintiff could not bring a claim because he worked ‘in a restaurant’ one of the exemptions to overtime pay enumerated in the statute.
The statutory purpose of the overtime law is ‘to reduce the number of hours worked, encourage the employment of more persons, and compensate employees for the burden of a long workweek.’ The court defines ‘in a restaurant’ narrowly and consistent with both the purpose of the statute and consistent with other statutory exemptions to overtime pay; which must show a particular job must ‘plainly and unmistakably’ fall within the ‘restaurant’ exemption in order for the exemption to apply.
The plaintiff in this case was hired as a maintenance technician who traveled to different locations performing maintenance and repair work, managing trucks, and other tasks. He reported to a regional maintenance manager and was not limited to one particular restaurant. The court held that Wendy’s could not successfully prove that the plaintiff’s job as a maintenance technician plainly and unmistakably fell within the ‘restaurant’ exemption of Section 1A.
The court declined to follow an opinion letter issued by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards pertaining to another overtime exemption listed in Section 1A, concerning employees who are employed ‘in a hotel, motel, motel court or like establishment. The letter found that banquet services within the physical confines of a hotel property are included in the hotel exemption of the overtime law.
A worker who does not plainly and unmistakably fell within an exception to the overtime law is entitled to recover against an employer who failed to pay overtime wages. In the restaurant and hotel/motel industry, workers who do not perform their duties on the property of the restaurant or hotel/motel will not fall into the exemption from overtime wages. If you are unsure of whether you should be paid overtime wages please contact Adam Shafran.