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Your Right to a Timely Paycheck

Payday Laws and Your Right to a Timely Paycheck

Most of us look forward to payday. We have essential bills to pay and depend on a timely paycheck. Having a regular payday is important. What happens if you're not paid on time? A late paycheck can cause a ripple effect of problems. You can incur late fees and penalties on your bills. A late mortgage payment or rent can impact your home. What recourse do you have?

Overview of Payday Laws

While laws governing the frequency and regularity of paychecks vary from state to state, most states operate similarly. For example, most states mandate the payment of employee wages in weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly payments. Most states also require employers to notify their employees of payday requirements.

Not all states have laws about pay frequency. Alabama and Florida have no payday regulations, and employers determine pay frequency. In Massachusetts, hourly employees must have either weekly or biweekly pay periods.

Many state laws governing paydays have exceptions for certain types of businesses or employees. Also, workers accurately classified as independent contractors are not covered by paycheck laws. They have payment terms spelled out in the written contract.

Some states distinguish different industries or unions. For instance, workers employed by a farm labor contractor in California must receive paychecks at least once every week on a designated business day. Private-sector employees in Hawaii must receive wages at least once a month. Public-sector Hawaiian employees must receive semimonthly paychecks.

Your Rights Under the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a significant piece of legislation for employment law. The FLSA applies to full-time and part-time employees working in the private sector as well as federal, state, and local government workers. FLSA sets standards for:

  • A minimum rate of pay per hour
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Overtime pay
  • Number of hours worked
  • Employer recordkeeping
  • Child labor and employing minors

Federal law sets minimum standards for non-exempt employees and employers. The Equal Pay Act amendment further guarantees employees the same pay rate for the same job, regardless of gender.

States may pass their own labor laws, but they should meet or exceed the federal minimum. If the state's standard is less than the federal law, the federal statute takes priority. For example, several states have minimum wage laws below the federal minimum. The employer must pay the federal minimum wage for positions covered under FLSA.

Your Right to a Timely Paycheck

When you begin working, your employer must provide you with an employee handbook or contract detailing your rights and expectations. This document may include:

  • Your expected workweek
  • Number of hours of work per week
  • Wage rate
  • Employee benefits, like health care, workers' compensation, vacation and days, parental leave, or medical leave

Another vital issue this document should address is how often you will receive your paycheck. As mentioned, state laws set payday requirements. Some examples include:

  • Texas: Employees exempt from overtime must receive payment once a month. Non-exempt employees must be paid at least twice monthly. All employees should have regularly scheduled calendar days. State law has no provision for assessing penalties for late wage payments.
  • Florida: Officers and employees working for the state must get paid at least once a month. There are no minimum payday requirements for private-sector employees.
  • Illinois: Executive, administrative, or professional employees must get paid monthly. All other employees should receive semimonthly paychecks.
  • Massachusetts: Employers must pay employees weekly or biweekly. Union members may get paid less often if the union negotiates a monthly payment schedule.
  • New York: Manual laborers receive pay weekly or twice monthly upon approval or agreement. Clerical and other workers must receive pay at least twice monthly.

What To Do if Your Paycheck Is Late

If your paycheck is late or you have other unpaid wages, you have federal and state recourse. Each state has its own procedure for what to do in the case of a missed or late paycheck. But in general, you may do the following if you're not paid on time or on a regular basis:

The U.S. Department of Labor is the arm of the federal government that enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act. You have two years from when your paycheck was due to file a complaint with the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.

Union Members

If you're a union member, your conditions of employment are controlled by a written agreement negotiated between the union and employers. This contract is a collective bargaining agreement. Your union's collective bargaining agreement sets out requirements for:

  • Payment of wages
  • Number of hours required
  • Overtime pay rate
  • Health insurance
  • Sick leave
  • Vacation time

If your paycheck is late, consult with your union leadership. You should file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency overseeing the rights of unions and their members.

Get Legal Help To Protect Your Right to a Timely Paycheck

Employers don't have the luxury of paying their workers whenever or however they please. Specific federal and state laws bind employers. A late paycheck could affect your ability to pay bills and cause a chain reaction of unfortunate events. Protect your rights by consulting with an experienced wage and hour attorney or an employment law attorney near you.

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