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Massachusetts Movie Theater Employees Do Not Qualify For Sunday Premium Pay

Published:  September 26, 2017

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Edward P. Leibensperger, has ruled that a movie theater chain is not required to pay food and service workers a premium for working on Sundays.

Plaintiffs were movie theater employees who filed a lawsuit alleging violation of the Wage Act and violation of the state’s laws for handling tips.  Plaintiffs argued that defendants operate movie theaters on Sunday under an exemption from the state’s Blue Laws, which restrict labor, work, and amusement on Sundays. Plaintiffs claimed that under this exemption the defendant is allowed to operate its movie theater on Sundays so long as it pays its food and service staff at a premium rate. The former employees also claimed that the act of selling food and drink at the theater makes the defendant subject to the state’s Blue Laws as well.  The defendants, in response, moved for a motion to dismiss on the Wage Act count for failure to state a claim.

On the issue of Sunday premium pay, Judge Leibensperger concluded that a movie theater does not qualify under any of the state’s Blue Laws requiring premium pay for Sunday.  The judge added that the sale of food and drink at movie theaters are for its consumption on the premises which is a key distinction when it comes to Massachusetts Blue Law.  If the movie theater were to sell food intended for home consumption, such as a grocer for example, they may be subject to Massachusetts Blue Law.  Based on these facts, Leibensperger found that movie theaters are not required to pay food and service staff a premium for working on Sundays.

On the issue of holiday pay the judge ruled differently.  The judge cited Massachusetts General Law, which mandates premium pay for any retail establishment on New Year’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day with no exceptions.  Based on these provisions the judge concluded that holiday premium pay is required for food and service employees even though they are exempt from the regular Sunday premium pay requirement.

This was a case of first impression for the Superior Court and illustrates how courts may interpret the Wage Act for similar issues going forward. Should you have any employment or labor related questions please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.