You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Editorial | BLACK FRIDAY

Massachusetts blue laws 2.0

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Shoppers wait in line outside Target at 3:45 a.m. in South Bay Center in Dorchester on Black Friday last year.

MASSACHUSETTS’ BLUE laws date back to the Puritan era, and are often hard to square with modern life. (Still on the books is a ban on dancing on Sundays, which authorities wisely ignore.) But state officials, citing the goal of protecting workers, are enforcing the portion of the law that bans most stores from staying open on Thanksgiving.

That cuts into Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving retail bonanza that the Puritans surely didn’t anticipate. In recent years, the big-box arms race has spurred stores to open at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving. Under the blue laws, that’s permitted - but employees aren’t allowed to start work a minute earlier, even to prepare for the oncoming crowds.

Continue reading below

Protecting retail workers from feeling pressured to work on Thanksgiving is a noble impulse. But in reality, the blue laws are creating nothing but inconvenience; many stores adjust by simply opening at 12:30 a.m. instead of midnight. Workers still come in - but half an hour deeper into the night.

Fortunately, the blue laws themselves also hint at a solution. Under those same laws, stores that open on certain holidays must pay time-and-a-half for both full- and part-time workers. As it currently stands, businesses that are permitted to be open on Thanksgiving are covered by that overtime rule, but not on the day after Thanksgiving. A sensible adjustment to the blue laws would allow more stores to open late on Thanksgiving, but would extend the overtime rule until sometime the next morning.

Especially in a tough economy, the extra pay would make it easier to get workers for those once-a-year sales - and give those workers more time to prepare for the crush of eager customers.

Loading comments...
Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
Please enter a valid email will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of