Heard: November 6, 2017.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on October
17, 2014. The case was heard by Robert B. Gordon, J., on
motions for judgment on the pleadings.
Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the
case from the Appeals Court.
F. Rubin for the defendant.
C. Merritt for the plaintiff.
J. Fried, for Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association,
amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
Present: Gants, C.J., Gaziano, Budd, & Cypher, JJ.
plaintiff, Tze-Kit Mui, sued his former employer,
Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport or agency), alleging
that Massport failed to timely compensate him for his
accrued, unused sick time under the Wage Act, G. L. c. 149,
§§ 148, 150 (Wage Act or act). A Superior Court
judge allowed Mui's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Massport appealed, and we transferred the case here on our
own initiative. Because we conclude that payment for accrued,
unused sick time (sick pay) does not count as
"wages" under the act, we vacate the judgment and
remand the matter to the Superior Court.
2013, Massport initiated disciplinary proceedings against
Mui, a longtime employee. One week later, he applied for
retirement. Massport's employees' retirement system
set Mui's retirement date retroactively, despite the fact
that the disciplinary proceedings had not been resolved.
Several weeks later, Massport discharged Mui for
cause. The termination was subsequently
overturned pursuant to a grievance procedure.
Massport's sick pay policy, eligible employees receive
payment for a percentage of the value of their accrued,
unused sick time upon separation from the
agency. Employees who are discharged for cause are
not eligible for sick pay.
to the completion of the grievance process, Massport's
position was that because the agency initiated disciplinary
proceedings against Mui by suspending him prior to his
application for retirement, and then terminated him (an
action that was later reversed), he was not entitled to any
sick pay. Once the arbitrator ruled that Massport could not
terminate Mui because he had already retired, the agency paid
the value of Mui's accrued sick time pursuant to its
policy. Because of the grievance proceedings, however, the
payment was made over one year later than Mui's effective
brought suit against Massport, claiming that the agency
violated the Wage Act by failing to compensate him for his
accrued, unused sick time within the time frame mandated by
the act. The Superior Court judge agreed and allowed