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Understanding Employment Relationships in Massachusetts

If you have a professional practice it is important that you understand employment relationships and the implications those relationships can have on how you operate your practice. Massachusetts has specific state laws that govern employment relationships—these laws apply in different situations and can affect everything from the type of leave you are required to offer your employees to the employment contracts you use in your practice. Here’s a few things you will want to understand about these laws. 

State Specific Laws—What They Are and Who They Cover

When trying to understand employment relationships within the state of Massachusetts, it’s important to know what the state laws are and who these laws apply to. Important Massachusetts laws to be aware of include: 

  • Anti-discrimination Law: this law covers workplace discrimination and applies to all employers that have at least six employees. 
  • Payment of Wages Law: this law requires an employer to pay employees all wages due, including unused vacation time, at the time the employee is terminated. This law applies to all private employers. 
  • Leave Laws: These laws cover employer requirements for giving workers leave—these laws include Paid Sick Leave (which applies when an employer has 11 or more employees), Unpaid Sick Leave (which applies when an employer has 1-10 employees), Domestic Violence leave (applies to larger companies with 50 or more employees), and “Small Necessities” leave (applies to larger companies with 50 or more employees). The “Small Necessities” leave law allows an employee time off for medical appointments, school, or to care for family. 
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave: Starting on July 1, 2019, employers had to begin contributing to the state-administered paid family and medical leave program. Employees can begin benefiting from this program in July 2021. This new program applies to all employers. 

Employees vs. Contractors under the Law

When running a practice in Massachusetts it is also important to understand the legal difference in employee vs. contractor classification. Most often, a worker is considered an employee unless specific requirements are met. A worker is considered an independent contractor if their contract allows them to be free from control and direction, their work is not part of the ordinary course of employer’s business, and the worker generally performs an independent trade or profession.


Employment Contracts

When you hire workers, you will need to make sure you are aware of certain legal rules about employment contracts. A few important things to know include: 

  • Employment contracts do not have to be in writing
  • Good faith and fair dealing are implied in all employment contracts—this means a contract can’t include terms that allow an employer to terminate the worker in a way that would go against public policy (such as firing an employee to avoid paying commission). 
  • Your contracts can include mandatory arbitration clauses. 
  • If you want to change the terms of a contract, the original contract should include terms on how changes can be made. 

Get Help With Your Massachusetts HR Needs

Understanding the ins and outs of the employment relationship and the Massachusetts laws that govern it can be complicated. At HR for Health, our goal is to help you understand and comply with state laws so that you can avoid making mistakes that cost you in the long run.


We provide services to help you handle compliance with state laws, hiring, and all your other HR needs.  If you have questions about employment relationships in Massachusetts and how they apply in your practice or any other questions, please reach out to HR for Health and SCHEDULE A CALL, or call: 877.779.4747, or email: compliance@hrforhealth.com. Contact us today to find how HR for Health can help your professional practice!

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. HR for Health has provided the following complimentary articles to ensure you have a game plan when addressing complex HR matters.



Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services