The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that a worker’s general waiver of claim against an employer is not sufficient to also waive the worker’s right to bring a claim under the Massachusetts Wage Act.
In a case heard by the SJC last year, delivery truck drivers for an oil company who were hired as independent contractors later learned that they may in fact have qualified as employees, which would entitle them to additional compensation, including overtime pay, under the Massachusetts Wage Act. The drivers had signed a general waiver of claims with the company that hired them, a waiver which the company claimed barred the drivers’ claim under the Massachusetts Wage Act.
Although lower courts agreed with the company, the SJC ultimately ruled that in order for an employee’s waiver of their rights under the Massachusetts Wage Act to be effective, the waiver must be worded in “clear and unmistakable” terms, “understandable to the average individual”, and most importantly must specifically refer to the Wage Act and the employee’s rights thereunder.
If your signed agreements with your workers (both employees and independent contractors) only have general waivers of claims and you want Wage Act claims also included, you should consider an amendment to your agreement to ensure that those claims are also covered.