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Judge Sanders Rules Call-In Center Not Required to Pay Premium for Sunday Work, Exempt from ‘Blue Laws’

Judge Sanders issued an interesting summary-judgment decision in Bassett v. Triton Technologies. She teed up the issue this way:

This class action raises the novel question of whether a call-in center where defendant’s employees take orders for goods sold by others is a “store or shop” engaged in the “sale at retail of goods” such that the employees must be paid time and half for work on Sundays [pursuant to G.L. c. 136, §6(50).]

Judge Sanders concluded that the employees were not entitled to time-and-half pay.

As the court observed, the Massachusetts Blue Laws, including the prohibition against certain conduct on Sundays, were “enacted during the Colonial era when ‘playing, uncivil walking, drinking, traveling from town to town, going on shipboard, sporting, or in any other way misspending that precious time’ was forbidden conduct.” Over time, the Massachusetts legislature relaxed the prohibitions, allowing, for example, the operation of ice cream parlors on Sundays in 1908, Sunday golf in 1931, and dancing at Sunday weddings in 1955.

The plaintiffs in Bassett focused on G.L. c. 136 §6(50), which exempts from the Sunday closing laws a “store or shop” for the “sale at retail of goods therein” so long as such a business with seven or more employees compensates its employees at a rate of time and a half.

Judge Sanders ruled that the call-in center was not a “store or shop” engaged in the “sale at retail of goods.” Relying on the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of “store” as a “place where goods are deposited for purchase or sale,” Judge Sanders reasoned that the call-in center did not constitute a “store” because it did not “handle any Client products.” She further ruled that the inclusion of the word “therein”—as used in the phrase “sale at retail of goods therein”—“impl[ies] that the goods are indeed within the physical space from which their sale to retail customers occurs.” The call-in center took payment information from customers, but did not process the payments, receive any funds from the sales, or participate in the transfer of any goods. At no time were any clients’ products available for purchase at the call-in center.

Based on her analysis, Judge Sanders granted summary judgment in favor of the call-in center on the plaintiffs’ claims that the defendant’s failure to pay time-and-half for Sunday work violated the Massachusetts Wage Act, G.L. c. 149, §§ 148 and 150.

Bassett, et al. v. Triton Technologies, Inc., et al.

February 12, 2018

Full decision here

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