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  • Writer's pictureJennie Tannenbaum

Seasonal Employees, Overtime Wages and Meal Breaks

So, you’ve hired some seasonal employees for the holiday season because you expect business to be brisk. Hiring seasonal employees means complying with state and federal laws governing new hires and overtime wages to name just two areas in which employers must remain compliant and vigilant. To demonstrate, let's consider the story of Matilda, a fictitious person.

Such an assortment of feet, she saw, delicate feet, hearty feet, old feet, young feet and just too many feet overall. Matilda was the second to last to be hired of the seasonal employees at the major department store. She was assigned to work as a sales clerk in the shoe department which was not a bad thing she thought at the time. She had an insatiable love of shoes, since the time she realized how they could transform both her state of mind and an outfit.

It was the most insane shopping day in North America the day after Thanksgiving also known as Black Friday when Matilda was asked to work. Her shift began promptly at 5:00 a.m. that day and she was scheduled to work until noon. A few hours into working, Matilda began to wonder if the shift manager would be allowing her to take a break sometime, since the deep discounts coupled with the coupons brought in more customers than anyone had anticipated and she was growing tired quickly.

In Massachusetts employers are required to provide employees an unpaid thirty minute meal break after working a shift that lasts more than six hours. Matilda is entitled to this meal break because she is scheduled to work seven hours that day. Massachusetts law does not require that employers provide rest breaks to employees.

Shortly, after Matilda had brought out the newest style in cold weather boots to an impatient customer, the shift manager asked if she would be able to work a few more hours than her scheduled shift. Immediately, Matilda began to think of the extra amount of money she would be paid for working a few more hours in addition to the forty hours she had been scheduled, so she agreed. 

In Massachusetts overtime wages are required to be paid to an employee after they have worked more than forty hours a week in the amount of one and a half times of that employee’s normal hourly wage. Because, Matilda is being paid the state minimum wage of $12 an hour, she would be entitled to an overtime minimum wage of $18 an hour.

In Massachusetts each week that an employer does not pay an employee for overtime is a separate offense. The failure to pay overtime wages can be very costly to an employer, because the employee may be awarded treble damages (three times the amount of compensatory damages), the cost of litigation as well as reasonable attorney fees of the employee.

If you are hiring your own “Matildas” for the holiday season, please make sure that you are in compliance with all of the rules and regulations. Contact Simply Good Law to review these.  

This article is for information purposes only and is not meant to be construed as legal advice. For more information or discussion contact me at or at 978-681-0017.

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