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Last Paycheck Laws: When Do I Get a Paycheck After Leaving a Job?

Last Paycheck Laws: When Do I Get a Paycheck After Leaving a Job?

Whether an employee quits their job or their employer fires them or lays them off, state and federal laws govern how quickly they get their last paycheck. Federal law establishes a minimum rule. State laws vary on how soon your employer must pay you after you leave your job.

Many state laws carve out final paycheck deadlines for employees who quit. Employers who break these rules usually do so out of ignorance. But they'll still face stiff penalties for noncompliance.

This article explains when to expect your final paycheck after leaving your employer and what to do if your former employer disregards the law.

State and Federal Last Paycheck Laws in General

The federal law that governs wages and hours is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This law, enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), governs issues with employee pay. The FLSA offers protection to most Americans.

There are three ways you can fall under the umbrella of the FLSA:

  • You work for a company that has annual sales of at least $500,000
  • You work for a company in the health care or education sector
  • Your work involves interstate commerce

Even if you don't meet the first two qualifications, there's a good chance you meet the third one. It's hard to find a business that doesn't engage in interstate commerce today.

Most states have laws mandating how soon a departing employee must get their final wages. In states without these laws, federal law requires employers to issue a departing employee's final paycheck before the next regular payday for the last pay period.

Other states have laws forcing companies to pay unpaid wages to departing employees on the next payday. This is in alignment with. Some states mandate that companies issue an employee's final pay upon discharge (or on the next business day).

State Laws on Employees' Paychecks

If you've quit your job or your company fires you, your former employer may have to pay you sooner than the next regular pay period. How soon after your last day do you get your check? It depends on state laws.

Below are examples of state laws establishing deadlines for payment of wages to a terminated employee:

  • California: Employers must immediately give employees their final check for wages if they fire them. They have 72 hours to provide your last check if you quit.
  • District of Columbia: The employer must issue the final check on the next business day if the company fires you or on the next payday if you leave. If the next payday is more than seven days away, the company must issue a check by the seventh day.
  • Illinois: Former employees' must get their final checks on the next regularly scheduled payday, regardless of whether their employer let them go or they quit.
  • Massachusetts: Employers must pay employees immediately if they get fired and on the next scheduled payday (or on the Saturday following your resignation if there is no planned payday) if they quit.
  • Texas: A company must give employees their final check within six calendar days if they fired them and on the next payday if they quit.

What About Overtime Pay and Unused Vacation Time?

Whether your employer has to pay you unused sick or vacation time depends on two things. First, it depends on the laws in your state. Some states force companies to pay earned time off to employees when they fire them or when they quit.

It also depends on your company's policy. You'll receive a copy of the employee handbook when you start your job. This will contain the company's policies and procedures on what happens to your benefits when you leave the firm.

Most employers have new workers sign a disclaimer stating they understand they will not get vacation or sick pay when they leave.

How To File a Complaint

If your former employer hasn't paid your outstanding wages on your regular payday after leaving a job, and you've failed to remedy the situation with your former employer, contact your local Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division office to file a complaint. A DOL official will assist you with the process.

If you live in a state that mandates the issuance of last paychecks to departing employees, see FindLaw's State Labor Agencies directory and contact the appropriate office to file a complaint.

Call an Attorney for Help

Whether your employer fires you or you quit your job, you're entitled to your last paycheck. You should explore your legal options if you're still waiting for your last paycheck and the statutory deadline is past.

Get in touch with a local employment law attorney today.

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