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My employer owes me wages. Can I sue in small claims court?

Massachusetts small claims wage claim

Good question. The short answer is yes -- if the amount of wages you are seeking is $7,000 or under.

The nice thing about small claims is that it can be much quicker than a non-small claims civil suit, and the filing fee is usually lower.

A small claims action begins when the complainant (the person filing the complaint) files out a court form called a "Statement of Claim and Notice of Trial" and pays a filing fee.

On the Statement of Claim form, it is important to list the amount of wages that are owed ($7,000 or under).

When the case goes to trial, however, if the judge concludes that the wages are owed, the employer will automatically be ordered to pay three times the amount of wages owed -- plus interest, costs (filing fee, etc.), and attorneys fees (if any).

This is true even if the ultimate judgment goes well over $7,000. A recent case out of the Massachusetts Appeals Court has made this clear. See Blake v. CRNC Operating, LLC, No. 15–P–1561 (Mass.App.Ct. September 27, 2016) (R. 1:28 Decision) (total damages awarded to an employee in a small claims action for a violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act may exceed $7,000; employee awarded $7,000 in damages, trebled to $21,000, plus interest, costs, and attorney fees, pursuant to G.L. c. 149, § 150, for a total judgment of over $27,000).

For more on what may happen at the small claims trial, see the Trial Court's Small Claims Guide or contact me.

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