Personal Liability for Prevailing Wage Violations in Massachusetts

Gregory M. Boucher
Published June 17, 2019

Owners of a Massachusetts waste collection, recycling and removal company recently were held personally liable for their failure to pay their employees at prevailing wages.  See Donis v. American Waste Services, LLC, 95 Mass.App.Ct. 317 (2019).  Under Massachusetts law, wage violations are subject to triple damages and payment of attorney's fees.    

The waste services company entered into contracts with several Massachusetts towns that required compliance with prevailing wage laws at hourly rates of $20 -- $24.  However, the company paid workers $16 -- $17 an hour, or at flat day rates.  The company tried several unsuccessful defenses: (1) the towns did not always provide the company with current rate schedules (rejected because the company could obtain them elsewhere); (2) the flat day rates paid to employees properly compensated employees because employees did not always work eight hours (rejected because the company did not keep adequate time records); and (3) employees should not be able to recover for claims under both a prevailing wage claim and a Massachusetts Wage Act claim (rejected because employees can bring both claims).  

This case stands as a reminder that companies and their officers must follow prevailing wage laws and failure to do so can result in personal liability for three times the amount of money a company fails to pay its employees.