Mass SJC 2019 case Donis v American Waste Services LLC

Parties

  • Employee = Donis
  • Employer = AWS LLC
  • Public Entities = Towns
  • State Department of Labor = Determine prevailing wage rates

Facts

Cape Cod towns put material hauling work contracts out for public bid.  Bidders knew they would have to pay ‘prevailing wage’.  The Department of Labor sets those rates and notifies Towns. Town contracts require that employee rates match the prevailing rate set by the State.

The Town hired AWS to do earth hauling and AWS paid its employees according to the Wage rate sheet the Town gave.  The hauling contract went on, there were changes in scope and schedule and a new wage rate came to apply but the Town didn’t get notice from the Department of Labor and AWS did not pay its employees the updated rate. The employer said – we didn’t get the memo  updating wage rates.

Years after the work was done, some employees sued with evidence that they had not been paid rates on the updated schedules.  The employer said the Town didn’t update us. 

Employees sued AWS under different theories of recovery, the Wage Act and Breach of Contract.

Massachusetts Wage Act – is a strict liability law with strong penalties for employers who do not pay accurate wages on time.  This law gives employees many new rights but has a claim time cut off of three years.

Issue

Did the Wage Act statute of limitations apply or could the employees also claim under an alternate theory as third party beneficiaries to the Town Employer contract?

Holding

Wage Act statute of limitations applied.

Reasons

The lawmakers made detailed rules about employer duties and included a special time limit.  Their occupation of this entire field preempted other plainer sorts of claim theories.