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Massachusetts Considering New Wage and Hour Laws for Tipped Workers

According to a report from The Center Square, tipped workers in Massachusetts could soon receive a wage boost. Two corresponding bills—House Bill 1971 and Senate Bill 1213—would require tipped employees to receive the same base-level minimum wage as workers in other professions. In this article, our Springfield wage and hour lawyers discuss the proposed changes to the tipped worker wage laws in Massachusetts. 

Understanding the Current Massachusetts Tipped Worker Minimum Wage Laws (2021)

Employers in Massachusetts are required to pay all workers a minimum wage. The Commonwealth has higher minimum wage laws than the federal government. As highlighted by the Massachusetts Department of Labor, the Commonwealth’s minimum wage laws for 2021 are as follows: 

  • Standard Minimum Wage: $13.50 per hour. 
  • Tipped Worker Minimum Wage: $5.55 per hour. 

To be clear, employers are not permitted to pay tipped workers less than $13.50 per hour when considering their total compensation. An employee who meets the requirements as a “tipped worker” in Massachusetts is entitled to receive at least $13.50 per hour when their tips are combined with the direct wages that they get from their employer. 

Note: Under existing law, the minimum wage in Massachusetts is already set to increase in both 2022 and 2023. On January 1st, 2022, the minimum wage will go up to $14.25 for standard employees and $6.15 for tipped workers. On January 1st, 2023, the minimum wage will go up to $15.00 for standard employees and $6.75 for tipped workers. 

An Overview of the Proposed Reforms (House Bill 1971 and Senate Bill 1213)

House Bill 1971 and Senate Bill 1213 seek to amend the Massachusetts minimum wage laws for tipped workers. In effect, the proposed bills, which are identical, would eliminate the tipped worker minimum wage scale. If passed into law in their current form, these bills would reduce the gap between the standard minimum wage and the tipped worker minimum wage before eliminating the existing tipped worker wage system entirely beginning in 2028. 

As noted in the reporting from The Center Square, seven other states have already taken action to reduce or eliminate minimum wage gaps for tipped workers. Though, these laws are complicated. In general, the new regulations are being rolled out gradually and some of them only apply to large employers. It remains to be seen whether Massachusetts will reform the tipped worker minimum wage laws. There is both strong support and strong opposition over this important wage and hour issue. 

Contact Our Massachusetts Wage and Hour Attorneys for Legal Help

At Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore, LLC, our Massachusetts wage and hour lawyers know how to protect the rights of tipped workers. If you were improperly underpaid, we can help. Contact us today for a confidential review of your employment law claim. With legal offices located in Northampton and Springfield, we provide wage and hour representation to tipped workers throughout Massachusetts, including in Hampshire County, Hampden County, and Berkshire County.