Under the Massachusetts Sunday premium pay law most retailers must pay an employee time-and-a-half his regular wages for working on a Sunday. Under the Massachusetts Overtime Law, an employer must also pay a non-exempt employee time-and-a-half for any work exceeding 40 hours per week. AutoZone, an auto parts retailer, has a pay policy that credits an employee’s Sunday premium pay toward overtime pay due in the same week. For example, if an AutoZone employee works 8 hours on a Sunday and 40 more hours in the same week, totaling 48 hours, the employee will receive 40 hours of regular pay and 8 hours of pay at time-and-a-half but will not receive double pay for the hours worked on a Sunday.
AutoZone employees Joseph Swift and Edward Cove filed a class-action lawsuit challenging AutoZone’s pay policy, arguing that they were entitled to time-and-a-half pay for both Sunday hours and overtime hours worked in the same week. The Superior Court ruled that AutoZone’s policy violated the Overtime Law and reported to the Appeals Court the question whether an employer may offset Sunday premium payments against overtime pay. The Supreme Judicial Court then took the case for direct appellate review. Four months after the Superior Court’s decision while the case was pending before the Supreme Judicial Court, the Legislature enacted emergency legislation amending the Overtime Law to allow employers to credit Sunday or holiday premium pay toward overtime pay. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Superior Court and ruled in AutoZone’s favor.
NELF joined an amicus brief filed by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and others, arguing primarily that if two statutes require a person to do the same thing, that person need not do the same thing twice. Amici also argued that the Superior Court’s interpretation was inconsistent with legislative intent, because nowhere has the Legislature authorized double time for hours worked on a Sunday and in excess of 40 hours in the same week. The Supreme Judicial Court agreed, and held that an employer may offset Sunday premium pay against overtime pay. “If two statutes require an employer to do the same thing, there is no rule of statutory construction that compels the employer to do so twice.” The Court also observed that the 2003 emergency statute permitting crediting is strongly suggestive of the Legislature’s original intent when it first enacted the Overtime Law in 1960.