square wage thiefAll Boston Workers: If your employer has not fully paid the wages agreed upon for your work, or fails to pay you the minimum $11 per hour required by law for most jobs, you have the right to file a wage theft complaint.

File a Wage Theft Complaint

Workers on City Contracts: If you are providing labor for a job contracted with the city of Boston for $25,000 or more, you are required by law to be paid a living wage of at least $14.41 per hour. If your employer has failed to pay you this minimum rate, you have the right to file a living wage complaint.

File a Living Wage Complaint

WAGE THEFT

Wage theft is an employer’s unlawful failure to pay workers the wages they are due. This crime is more common than many people may think. Two-thirds of low-wage workers surveyed in a 2008 study were found to be victims of wage theft. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that more than $50 billion is stolen from workers’ paychecks each year – that’s more than three times the losses of all other annual robberies combined.

When Martin Walsh became mayor of Boston in 2014, he made wage theft a central concern of his administration. As a result of his executive order and follow-up directive, the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division was expanded to not only ensure compliance with the city’s living wage laws, but also to leverage the authority of the Boston Licensing Board to ensure that employers are paying their workers lawfully.

When the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division receives a wage theft complaint and confirms its merit, the division will take one of two actions, depending on whether the employer is licensed or seeking a license in an industry overseen by the Boston Licensing Board. (These industries include food service, alcohol service, lodging, billiards halls, bowling alleys, and fortune telling.)

  1. If the employer is licensed by the Boston Licensing Board, the division will notify the board of the complaint. The board will then determine if the complaint warrants a hearing and any disciplinary action against the employer.
  2. If the employer does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Boston Licensing Board, the division will advise the victim of legal routes they can pursue and/or refer the case to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

If you think you have been a victim of wage theft, please file a wage theft complaint. A division representative will review your case and get back to you shortly.

Frequently Asked Questions on Wage Theft

Q: Who can file a wage complaint with the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division?

A: Anyone who works for an employer in the city of Boston can file a complaint, regardless of immigration status.

Q: What are common examples of wage theft?

A: Wage theft can take many forms. You are a victim of wage theft if your employer:

  • fails to pay you the agreed-upon rate for your labor
  • fails to pay you the minimum $11 per hour required by law (except for tipped employees and agricultural workers)
  • withholds or distributes tips unfairly
  • fails to provide agreed-upon paid vacation or severance pay
  • fails to pay “time-and-a-half” (your hourly rate plus 50%) for overtime hours worked in excess of 40 a week (with a few exceptions)
  • fails to provide earned sick time
  • mis-classifies you as an independent contractor if you legally qualify as an employee entitled to unemployment and tax benefits
  • is a retailer with at least 8 employees and fails to pay “time-and-a-half” for work on Sundays (with several exceptions)
Q: Will filing a complaint reveal my immigration status?

A: No. When you file a wage theft complaint, we will not ask for photo identification, citizenship documents, or for any information regarding your immigration status. We will not report your status to any other government agency. Our only concern is that employers are held accountable for fairly compensating all workers.

Q: Will my employer be notified that I filed a complaint?

A: We will NOT notify your employer of your complaint without your express permission. However, in order to further your case to the Boston Licensing Board and seek restitution, you will need to authorize that notification.

Q: Can the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division get my earned wages back?

A: We’ll try. By bringing your complaint to the Boston Licensing Board, which has the authority to renew or revoke essential business licenses, we hope to put enough pressure on negligent employers that they will find it in their best interest to resolve the matter voluntarily by paying any back wages that are due.

Q: What are my other options for getting my earned wages back?

A: There are three direct legal routes available to victims of wage theft. You may file a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, which enforces the state’s wage and hour laws and/or file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, which enforces federal wage and labor laws. You can also hire a lawyer and bring civil action against your employer.

 

LIVING WAGE

Since 1997, the Boston Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance (LWO) has served to create and retain livable wages in the City of Boston. This ordinance requires that all employees working on sizable city contracts earn an hourly wage that is sufficient for a family of four to live at or above the federal poverty level. This wage amount, called the living wage, is re-calculated every year and is currently set at $14.41. This means that all vendors working on contracts with the city of Boston worth at least $25,000 are currently required to pay their employees a living wage of at least $14.41 per hour.

The Wage Theft & Living Wage Division upholds the Living Wage Ordinance by:

  • Making regular site visits to contractors subject to the LWO
  • Helping city contractors come into compliance with the LWO
  • Educating workers on their rights under the LWO
  • Investigating complaints of LWO violations

When the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division receives a living wage complaint and confirms its merit, the division will conduct a site visit to the employer in question to inspect its payrolls. If the employer is found to be in violation of the law, the division may recommend sanctions and/or order back payment of wages. An employer who fails to come into compliance with the LWO can be fined up to $300 a day. The full follow-up procedures, as well as other compliance information, are detailed in the ordinance regulations.

If you think your employer has unlawfully failed to pay you Boston’s living wage, please file a living wage complaint. A division representative will review your case and get back to you shortly.

If you are an employer subject to the Boston Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance, you can find compliance forms on the OWD partner forms page.

Frequently Asked Questions on Living Wage

Q: How do I know if I’m working on a contract with the city of Boston?

A: Both contractors and sub-contractors must comply with the city’s living wage laws on city contracts worth $25,000 or more. If you suspect that your labor is contributing to a city contract, file a living wage complaint and we can research the city’s contracts to give you an answer.

Q: Will filing a living wage complaint reveal my immigration status?

A: No. When you file a living wage complaint, we will not ask for photo identification, citizenship documents, or any information regarding your immigration status. We will not report your status to any other government agency. Our only concern is that employers are held accountable for fairly compensating all workers.

Q: Will my employer be notified that I filed a complaint?

A: We will NOT notify your employer of your complaint without your express permission. The Boston Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance stipulates that “statements written or oral, made by an employee, shall be treated as confidential and shall not be disclosed to the Covered Vendor without the consent of the employee.”

Q: What happens if my employer retaliates against me for filing a living wage complaint?

A: Any form of retaliation – termination, wage reduction, demotion, or discrimination – is explicitly prohibited by the Boston Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance. If you believe your employer has retaliated against you for asserting your rights, file a living wage complaint and indicate the circumstances of the retaliation in the appropriate field. If our investigation reveals evidence of retaliation, we may recommend sanctions and/or order back payment of wages. An employer can be fined up to $300 a day.

Q: Can I file a living wage complaint if I am not an employee?

A: Yes. If you have reason to believe that an employer contracted with the city of Boston, even if it is not your own, is unlawfully paying its employees less than the living wage, we want to hear about it.

 

Living Wage Advisory Committee

The Living Wage Advisory Committee (LWAC) is a 7-member body charged with reviewing the effectiveness of the LWO, its implementation and enforcement. The committee meets on a regular basis and its meetings are open to the public.

Current members of the LWAC Committee are:
Darlene Lombos (chair) – Community Labor United, Executive Director
Katie Belgard – SEIU 32BJ, Political Director – District 615
Rev. James Flavin – Archdiocese of Boston, Episcopal Vicar of the Central Region
Brian Piccini – Boston Urban Hospitality, Inc., CEO/Owner
Jessica Seney – Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Policy Consultant
Tim Sieber – UMass-Boston, Professor of Anthropology; Brazilian Worker Center, Treasurer
Natalicia Tracy – Brazilian Worker Center, Executive Director

 

Resources

Boston Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance and Boston Jobs Living Wage Ordinance Regulations
Legal documents that explain the scope of the living wage law and procedures for compliance and enforcement.

Health & Income: The Impact of Changes to Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance on the Health of Living Wage Workers
A 2016 report, released by the Boston Public Health Commission, that examines the relationship between living wage and health outcomes.

Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s Office, Workplace Rights
Detailed information on wage and hour laws, a reporting form for filing a wage complaint, and a database of employers who have been found in violation of workplace laws since January 2015. Based on your complaint, the office may seek criminal charges against an employer, seek restitution of wages, pursue civil action against an employer, or empower you to pursue civil action directly.

U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division
Information on a variety of workers’ rights under federal laws and a reporting form for filing a wage complaint. Based on your complaint, the office may take an employer to court and seek restitution of wages.

WageTheft.org
Advocacy resources and news on wage theft provided by Interfaith Worker Justice. (By linking to this resource, the Office of Workforce Development is not endorsing the views and opinions of Interfaith Worker Justice.)

 

Contact Us

If you have any questions, contact the Wage Theft & Living Wage Division at 617-918-5236.
If you’d like to report wage theft or living wage non-compliance, please file a wage theft complaint or file a living wage complaint.