Heard: February 14, 2017.
of a question of law to the Supreme Judicial Court by the
United States District Court for the District of
J. Shafran (Jonathon D. Friedmann also present) for the
Richard L. Alfred (Dawn Reddy Solowey & Anne S. Bider
also present) for the defendants.
Pagliaro & Martin J. Newhouse, for New England Legal
Foundation, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
Annette Gonthier Kiely, Kathy Jo Cook, Thomas R. Murphy,
& Timothy J. Wilton, for Massachusetts Academy of Trial
Attorneys, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd,
employees of National Water Main Cleaning Company filed a
class action suit against the company and its parent company,
Carylon Corporation, in the Superior Court, alleging, among
other claims, nonpayment of wages in violation of the
Massachusetts Wage Act, G. L. c. 149, §§ 148, 150
(Wage Act). After the case was removed to the United States
District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the judge
granted final approval of a class settlement agreement that
resolved all outstanding issues except one question of law.
To resolve that question, the judge certified to this court
the following question pursuant to S.J.C. Rule 1:03, as
appearing in 382 Mass. 700 (1981):
"Is statutory interest pursuant to [G. L. c. 231, §
6B or 6C, ] available under Massachusetts law when liquidated
(treble) damages are awarded pursuant to [G. L. c. 149,
answer to the question, we declare that, under Massachusetts
law, statutory prejudgment interest pursuant to G. L. c. 231,
§ 6H, shall be added by the clerk of court to the amount
of lost wages and other benefits awarded as damages pursuant
to G. L. c. 149, § 150, but shall not be added to the
additional amount of the award arising from the trebling of
those damages as liquidated damages.
of the certified question.
we answer the certified question, which the judge issued at
the joint request of the parties, we must first ascertain its
meaning. The question is an inquiry into the availability of
statutory interest pursuant to two statutes: G. L. c. 231,
§ 6B, which directs the clerk of court to add interest
at the rate of twelve per cent per year to awards of judgment
"for personal injuries to the plaintiff or for . . .
damage to property"; and G. L. c. 231, § 6C, which
directs the clerk to add interest at the same twelve per cent
rate to awards of judgment "[i]n all actions based on
contractual obligations." The parties appear to treat
the certified question essentially as two questions: first,
whether Wage Act claims fall within the scope of either
§ 6B or § 6C, and second, if they do, whether
prejudgment interest should be added to the award of damages
for lost wages and other benefits where § 150, as
amended in 2008, provides for the trebling of those damages
and characterizes such an award as "liquidated
damages." We decline to answer the first of these
questions because, even if prejudgment interest could not be
added to Wage Act awards under § 6B or § 6C, it
plainly could be added under G. L. c. 231, § 6H, which
declares that interest at the rate of twelve per cent per
year shall be added to the award of damages "[i]n any
action in which damages are awarded, but in which interest on
said damages is not otherwise provided by law." The
question we shall answer, which we consider to be the true
gist of the certified question, is whether the Legislature,
when it amended § 150 in 2008 to require the award of
treble damages on Wage Act judgments and characterized the
award as "liquidated damages, " intended that
prejudgment interest not be added to any part of this award
because such interest was included within the scope of
"liquidated damages." See Tyler v. Michaels Stores,
Inc., 464 Mass. 492, 499 n.12 (2013) (declining to limit
answer to narrow confines of certified question where broader
discussion was necessary to articulate law regarding issue
Wage Act was enacted "to protect wage earners from the
long-term detention of wages by unscrupulous employers."
Melia v. Zenhire, Inc., 462 Mass. 164, 170 (2012),
quoting Cumpata v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass.,
Inc., 113 F.Supp.2d 164, 167 (D. Mass. 2000). Employers
violate the Wage Act when they fail to pay "each . . .
employee the wages earned" and when they ...