As an employee in Massachusetts, you may be considered an employee at will, and you employer may even be able to fire you for no reason at all, but if they do take adverse actions against you because you complained about your pay or demanded benefits be provided that you are entitled to, that is considered retaliation and unlawful.
In Massachusetts there are very strong laws that relate to an employee’s salary and wages. As a matter of fact, chapter 149 of the General Laws prohibits retaliation for an employee exercising his right to seek wages due to him. In order to establish a claim for retaliation, an employee will need to prove that: (1) he engaged in protected activity; (2) he suffered adverse employment action; and (3) there is a causal connection between his protected activity and the adverse action. In addition to this, the law has a specific provision that protects an employee who seeks his rights under the law and adds additional protection against retaliation. A retaliation claim looks to the employee’s good faith belief that the employer’s actions were unlawful and an employee’s retaliation claim may succeed even if an underlying claim for wages does not ultimately prove victorious.
One of the things that a court will look at to determine if your boss or company retaliated against you is in the time between your complaining about your wages and any adverse action taken against you. More specifically, the Supreme Judicial Court has held that causation may be inferred from the temporal proximity between an employee’s protected conduct and an employer’s adverse action. The SJC explained that where retaliatory action follows “close on the heels” of protected activity, a causal relationship may be inferred. Finally if you were simply treated differently than other employees who did not complain about some unlawful activity, a Court may deem this enough to classify bad behavior on your boss or company’s part retaliation.
The bottom line is this. If you feel that your employer has short changed you, or simply refuses to pay for all of your time worked, commissions earned or vacation time accrued, you should complain, and even speak to an employment law attorney about your rights. Don’t be afraid as the law is there to protect you.