Massachusetts Overtime Law May Apply to Employees Who Work Outside the State

ClockA court recently held that the Massachusetts overtime law, Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 151 § 1A, may apply to work performed outside of Massachusetts by employees of a Massachusetts company. This is a significant ruling, given that the overtime law provides for mandatory awards of treble damages and attorneys’ fees to successful plaintiffs.

The plaintiff in Gonyou v. Tri-Wire Engineering Solutions, Inc. (pdf) lived in Massachusetts. He worked as a “technician supervisor” at the company’s facility in Danbury, Connecticut. After the company terminated his employment, the plaintiff sued, alleging that the company failed to pay him overtime while he worked in Connecticut.

After removing the case to federal court in Massachusetts, Tri-Wire moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim under the Massachusetts overtime law. Specifically, Tri-Wire argued that there is a presumption against extra-territorial application of statutes and the place of employment is the crucial factor in determining which state’s law is applicable. The plaintiff responded by arguing that nothing in the language of the statute compels such a result and that his proposed approach “does no more than ask this employer to stay abreast of the employment laws of its own home state.”

Judge Nathaniel Gorton, addressing a question of first impression, held that the Massachusetts overtime law may be applicable to work performed for a Massachusetts company at an out-of-state facility. First, he noted that the statute “refers to any employer in the commonwealth, not to any employee in the commonwealth” and, therefore, the statute could be read to apply to work performed outside of Massachusetts. Second, the court observed that Gonyou was a Massachusetts resident for most of the period in which he worked at the Connecticut facility and that “Massachusetts does not have a pronounced policy against applying its statutes in circumstances” where, as in this case, a Massachusetts resident performed services for a Massachusetts employee out of state. Accordingly, Judge Gorton denied Tri-Wire’s motion to dismiss.

In light of this decision, we may begin seeing more cases seeking to apply the Massachusetts overtime law to work performed outside of Massachusetts.

This entry was written by Christopher Kaczmarek.

Photo credit: Fastily

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.