Under the Massachusetts’ Wage Act, employees are protected against retaliation from their employers. Aggrieved employees may bring an action for injunctive relief, damages, lost wages and other benefits against their employers.
Section 148A of the Wage Act provides: “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.” This provision is known as the anti-retaliation provision.
Although the Wage Act requires an employee subjected to a wage act violation to file a complaint with the Attorney General, the Supreme Judicial Court has interpreted this provision to cover internal complaints as well. “[A] complaint made to an employer (or a manager of the employer) by an employee who reasonably believes that the wages he or she has been paid violate such laws readily qualifies as such an ‘action.’” Smith v. Winter Place, LLC, 447 Mass. 363, 367 (2006).
A plaintiff employee who has been retaliated against will still be protected under the Wage Act for retaliation resulting from the internal complaint, although the retaliation occurred prior to the external complaint to the attorney general.
Damages under the Wage Act can be found under Section 150 of the act and expressly include actions arising under section 148A, the anti-retaliation provision. A prevailing employee in an anti-retaliation case will be awarded treble damages for any lost wages and other benefits and shall also be awarded the costs of the litigation and reasonable attorneys’ fees.