Once limited to two or three years of recovery for unpaid wages under Massachusetts law, employees can now look back up to six years. This week, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that employees could recover unpaid wages using common law breach of contract and other causes of action. Important? Absolutely. Under common law, employers may be liable for unpaid wages looking back up to six years, instead of the two to three years mandated by the Wage Act.
In Lipsitt v. Plaud, the SJC ruled that the Wage Act had no language indicating that it preempted the common law. That means that Mr. Lipsitt had a case for claiming unpaid wages under the common law, too. More specifically, the Court ruled that the Wage Act was originally drafted to deter the non-payment of wages through consequences not available in common law, and thus did not supersede common law.
Cyrus D. Lipsitt worked as Museum Director at the Frankin D. Roosevelt American Heritage Center, Inc., owned by Joseph J, Plaud. The Museum owed Lipsitt wages between 2004 and 2007, but he did not file a complaint until 2010. Under common law, employees can seek damages going back six years before the claim was filed, instead of the three year period according to the Wage Act. The good news for employees: employers can no longer use the short time technicalities to avoid paying earned wages.