May your Days be Merry and Blue Laws Compliant
‘Tis the season to eat turkey, drink pumpkin-flavored lattes, and, of course, shop. With Black Friday and the holiday season just around the corner, it is important for retailers to remember that Massachusetts has specific laws that restrict when and if businesses can operate on Sundays and holidays and that address employee compensation and scheduling for these days. These laws are called “Blue Laws.”
In general, businesses are prohibited from operating on Sundays in Massachusetts. There are fifty-five exemptions, however, that allow many businesses to operate despite this restriction. Certain retailers are exempt and so are permitted to operate, but they may also be required to pay non-exempt employees one and one-half times their regular hourly rate and make working on Sundays voluntary. These Sunday restrictions, exemptions, and requirements may also apply to certain holidays, such as New Year’s Day. Other holidays are afforded even greater protections. For example, on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day, certain retailers cannot operate without a local permit and approval by the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards. What’s more, when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, as it does this year, certain retailers cannot operate at all. The Attorney General’s Office is the entity responsible for enforcement of these laws and posts helpful compliance information on its website.
Depending on their goals, retailers may opt to close all of their stores nationwide for holidays like Thanksgiving Day, whereas others may choose to close only those stores that are subject to certain state restrictions, like Massachusetts’s Blue Laws. All retailers, however, should check that they comply with all state and federal laws with respect to their business operations and employees this holiday season.