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Workers Rights

Know your rights, Boston!

The City of Boston wants workers to know their rights. When you know your rights you can exercise your rights. 

You have a right to fair wages

Minimum Wage

In Massachusetts, all workers, regardless of immigration status, are presumed to be employees and with very few exceptions employees must be paid the State minimum wage of $15.00 per hour and a service rate (applied to workers who provide services to customers and who make more than $20 a month in tips) of $6.75 per hour.  Service workers must get at least the minimum wage when tips and wages are combined. After 6 hours of work, you must be given a 30 minute meal break (though it does not need to be paid). You should be paid 1 ½ times your hourly rate for any hours worked over 40 a week; there are a few occupations in which an overtime premium is not required.  

Living Wage

The Boston Jobs, Living Wage and Prevailing Wage Ordinance requires that all workers providing labor under  a service contract or subcontract with the city of Boston for $25,000 or more, or for a direct recipient of assistance from the City of $100,000 or more, be paid a living wage of at least $16.38 per hour (updated in July annually). If your employer has failed to pay you this minimum rate, you have the right to file a living wage complaint by calling 617-918-5499 or through this on-line form to submit a complaint. Note that only for-profit employers who employ at least 25 Full-Time Equivalent Employees (FTE's) and not-for-profit employers who employ at least 100 FTEs who have been awarded a service contract or service subcontract or assistance (i.e. grants, loans, tax incentives, subsidies, and loan forgiveness) from the City of Boston are covered by this Ordinance. 

Prevailing Wage

If you are an employee employed on a public works project, you must be paid the prevailing wage which is higher than the minimum wage. In Boston, if you are providing labor under a city contract for cleaning and security services that went out to bid after July 1, 2021 you must be paid the prevailing  wage rate set by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards. If you work on a city contract for cleaning or security services and believe you have not been paid the prevailing wage, call  617-918-5499 or use this on-line form to submit a complaint. 

file a complaint

If your employer does not pay you for all hours worked, pays you below minimum wage or at the wrong rate, that is wage theftIf you believe your employer has violated Massachusetts wage and hour laws and/or you are a victim of wage theft, you can file a complaint with the Fair Labor Division or 617-727-3465.

Wage Theft complaints are shared with the Boston Licensing Board who can hold a hearing or disciplinary action against employers seeking a license or renewal. Industries include:

  • food service,
  • alcohol service,
  • lodging,
  • billiards halls,
  • bowling alleys, and
  • fortune telling.

You have a right to a safe and healthy workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) entitles you to a safe workplace, regardless of your documentation status. Your employer must keep your workplace free of known health and safety hazards. You have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation. You also have the right to:

  • Receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards
File a Complaint

If you are a private sector employee, to learn more about your rights and learn how and when to file an OSHA complaint or call 617-565-6924.  

If you are a State, Municipal or County employee, file a complaint here or call 508-616-0461. 

You have a right to workers compensation

Workers Compensation is a type of insurance that must be paid for by your employer. If you are injured or made sick from work, your employer is required to notify their workers compensation insurance company about what happened to you. The name and phone number of the workers compensation insurance company must be posted at work.  You are covered by this law no matter how many hours you work or jobs you have, even if you are paid in cash, and regardless of your immigration status. You are entitled to: payment of medical bills for the injury or illness even if you keep working, 60% of your average weekly pay if you are disabled from work for 5 or more days, reasonable transportation costs for medical visits, payment if you cannot return to work because of the injury, payment for loss of hearing, scars, loss of eyes or limbs. 

File a complaint

Find more information about your rights to workers compensation and how to file a claim here or call 617-727-4900.

You have a right to a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation

Massachusetts Law outlaws treating people unfairly based on their membership in a "protected class." Massachusetts employment discrimination laws apply to employers with six or more employees, and any employer of a domestic worker regardless of the employer’s size. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, criminal record (inquiries only), handicap (disability), mental illness, retaliation, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, active military personnel, and genetics. In addition, employers have an affirmative responsibility to provide parental leave to biological and adoptive parents. Your employer must also have a written policy against sexual harassment. 

File a complaint

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly based on protected class, you may file a Complaint of Discrimination with the following departments:

You have a right to earned sick time

The Earned Sick Time law requires that most workers in Massachusetts have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of job-protected sick time per year to take care of themselves and certain family members. Workers must earn at least one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers with 11 or more employees must provide paid sick time. Employers with fewer than 11 employees must provide earned sick time, but it does not need to be paid.

File a complaint

The Earned Sick Time law is enforced by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Find more information on how to use your earned sick time here. If your employer denies you earned sick time or retaliates against you for trying to use your sick time, you can file a complaint with the Fair Labor Division or call 617-727-3465. 

Working under 18

Federal and State child labor laws limit the hours workers under 18 can work and the kinds of jobs that they can do. State law also requires employers to have Youth Employment Permits on file for all workers under 18. In Massachusetts, children under 14 may not work, except in very limited cases.

Learn more


Domestic Workers rights

Domestic workers have the right to minimum wage, overtime, time off from work, and other protections. You are a domestic worker if you perform domestic services in the home of another person not related to you. Domestic services include, but are not limited to:

  • housekeeping,
  • cleaning,
  • home management,
  • childcare,
  • home companionship, and
  • other caretaking.

Under state law, there are additional rules and added protections for domestic workers related to working and living conditions.

Learn more 

If you have questions about your rights, call the Attorney General’s Office Fair Labor Division hotline at 617-727-3465.  

Boston Residents Jobs Policy

The Boston Resident Jobs Policy (BRJP) requires that private development projects over 50,000 square feet and any public development project must meet the following employment standards:

  • At least 51% of the total work hours of journey people/skilled workers and 51% of the total work hours of apprentices in each trade must go to Boston residents. 
  • At least 40 percent of the total work hours of journey people/skilled workers and 40% of the total work hours of apprentices in each trade must go to People of Color.
  • At least 12% of the total work hours of journey people/skilled workers and 12% of the total work hours of apprentices in each trade must go to women.

​​​​​​​Learn more

  • Sign up for the Boston Residents Jobs Policy Jobs Bank to get information about hiring needs on upcoming projects here or by emailing
  • To learn more about union apprenticeship programs, visit here
  • To learn more about union pre-apprenticeships programs, visit here. 

Have you been misclassified?

In Massachusetts, most people who work or provide services are considered employees under the law. This means that they have rights to minimum wage, overtime, and other protections. Employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors may face criminal enforcement or civil penalties. An employer who classifies someone as an independent contractor rather than an employee must show that the work:

  1.  Is done without the direction and control of the employer.  
  2. Is performed outside the usual course of the employer's business.  
  3. Is done by someone who has their own, independent business or trade doing that kind of work. 

Learn more 

File a complaint

If you believe that you are wrongly classified as an independent contractor, you may file a wage complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

File a complaint

Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking is illegal. Labor trafficking happens when someone uses threats, harm (including financial harm), to force someone to perform work. This is also called forced services and it is a crime in Massachusetts. Anyone who forces another person to work in this way, or benefits as a result of the work, could face imprisonment and fines. Businesses that commit labor trafficking can be fined up to one million dollars.

Learn more 

File a Report

If you believe you are a victim of trafficking and/or to file a report:

  • Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.
  • Or, call the Attorney General’s Fair Labor hotline at 617-727-3465.

You have a Right to Organize

You can join together with your coworkers in a range of activities about work issues that matter to you, including whether you want to be represented by a union. Employers cannot threaten, discriminate against, or otherwise take action against you for organizing or talking with your coworkers about working conditions.

File a complaint

For information or to file a complaint, contact:

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