Employers Cannot Withhold a Worker’s Final Paycheck Even if Worker is Fired
Workers have a right to be paid for the work they have done even if they are fired or quit — with or without notice. Employers cannot “hold” a final paycheck to “punish” a worker for quitting or as “employer compensation” to “make up” for supposedly “bad” behavior by the employee. If your boss has withheld or is withholding your final paycheck, you can bring legal action to punish your employer for their misconduct. You should call the experienced and proven employee rights attorneys here at Herrmann Law for a consultation.
If employers fail to issue final payment per their state’s statute or rule, most employers will have to pay civil fines and penalties and, often, the attorneys’ fees and legal costs of the employee’s attorneys. Workers do not generally have to prove malice or ill will since even a mistake will entitle a worker to bring legal action. In legal terms, failure to issue a final paycheck in a timely manner is a form of strict liability. Indeed, many employers mistakenly assume that they can issue the final paycheck on the next scheduled pay date. That is not the case.
Nearly every state has a statute or regulation that establishes the rules for when a final paycheck must be issued. Generally, the statutes provide two different dates — one for when an employee quits and another for when an employee is fired. Often, a much shorter final pay due-date is required when an employee is fired.
The laws and rules vary from state to state. Some states require payment to be made immediately; other states require payment to be made within a day to several days; and other states require payment to issue no later than the next regularly-scheduled pay date. Vermont and Texas are examples of states where several days are allowed if the employee is fired — three days is the maximum in Vermont and six days for Texas. For both states, Vermont and Texas, the next scheduled pay date is when a final check is due when an employee quits. Oklahoma and Ohio are examples of states where employers are allowed to issue an employee’s final paycheck by the next scheduled pay date (regardless of whether the employee is fired or quits).
States that require immediate payment — or payment on the day of discharge — if the worker is fired include the following:
- California — immediately
- Colorado — immediately
- Hawaii — day of discharge where possible, but no later than the next business day
- Massachusetts — day of discharge
- Minnesota — immediately after demand for payment by the worker
- Missouri — day of discharge
- Montana — immediately (unless employer has a written policy; then pay must issue by the next regular pay date but no later than 15 days)
- Nevada — immediately
In addition to violating state law, withholding an employee’s paycheck is also a violation of federal law.
One final note: some employers try to hold a final paycheck “hostage” until the employee returns some property of the employer — like an employer-issued uniform or equipment or work tools. South Dakota is an example of one state that allows this, but that is a rare exception. Generally, employers cannot withhold a final paycheck beyond the statutorily-mandated deadline for any reason. Such a practice would also run afoul of federal wage laws.
Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today
For more information, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann law. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229.