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Final Countdown Begins on Premium Pay

Posted on September 20, 2022

The Massachusetts Legislature in 2018 passed what was called the “Grand Bargain,” which increased the minimum wage while reducing premium pay for retail employees who work on holidays and Sundays.

Effective January 1, 2023, the minimum wage Massachusetts will be $15 per hour.

Premium pay. which was originally 1.5 times an employee’s hourly rate, will at the same time complete its annual decrease to straight time or regular pay. The premium-pay provision was established back in the 1980s when the commonwealth first began to amend its blue laws to allow stores to open Sundays and some holidays.  Note that premium pay for Sundays and holidays is distinct from the requirement that employers pay 1.5 times the regular rate for overtime (hours over 40 in a week), which remains unchanged.

Prior to popping the champagne corks, employers should be aware of a few provisions that have not changed.


While retail employers no longer need to pay more than the regular pay rate, the law still prohibits the employer from requiring an employee to work on a Sunday or the summer holidays. The relevant language states that:

No employee engaged in work subject to the provisions of this clause shall be required to perform such work; and refusal to work for any retail establishment on Sunday shall not be grounds for discrimination, dismissal, discharge, reduction in hours, or any other penalty. The provisions of this paragraph shall be enforced by the office of the attorney general.

Any store or shop that qualifies for [a blue laws exemption] and employs more than 7 persons, including the proprietor, shall not require any employee to perform such work, and an employee’s refusal to work for any retail establishment on a holiday shall not be grounds for discrimination, dismissal, discharge, reduction in hours or any other penalty.

While this provision covers most holidays, an employer can require employees to work on Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day and Patriots’ Day and there is no requirement to pay anything more than an employee’s regular rate of pay.

The law provides a $500 fine for any violation of the statute.

The law also recognizes that employers do not need to request a permit to open on Sundays or the summer holidays. Permits are needed to open on Christmas and Thanksgiving and the early half of the day on Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Please see the accompanying ask the hotline article for a more detailed discussion of the permitting process for those 2 holidays.


While manufacturing employers were never required to pay anything other than an employee’s regular rate of pay, Massachusetts Gen. Laws Chapter 149, §45 provided that they could not require employees to work any of the holidays throughout the year.

AIM members often have detailed questions about which blue laws apply and when they apply. AIM offers a chart in its annual legal holiday calendar that discusses these issues in more detail. The calendar will be available at the end of the year or early in 2023.