Whether you are entering the job market for the first time or were recently terminated, it is important to understand your rights as a worker. Both federal and state governments have enacted a wide range of employment laws protecting employees from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions, and more. This section provides in-depth resources on all phases of the employment process — from the interview and hiring stage to promotion and termination. In addition, you’ll find information about privacy in the workplace, wage and hour laws, workplace safety, family leave policies, and detailed advice on hiring an employment lawyer.
Whether you are fired, laid off, or voluntarily quit your job, state and federal laws govern how promptly your former employer must issue your last paycheck. While federal law establishes a minimum requirement, state laws differ on how soon you must be paid after leaving your job. Additionally, many state laws carve out separate final paycheck deadlines for employees who quit, as opposed to being fired or laid off. Employers who break these rules often do so out of ignorance, but they can face stiff penalties for noncompliance.
The following article serves as a primer on when to expect your final paycheck after leaving or being terminated from your job, and what to do if your former employer disregards the law. See FindLaw’s Wage and Hour Laws subsection for related articles and resources.
State and Federal Last Paycheck Laws in General
Most states have laws mandating how soon a departing employee must receive his or her final wages (see Final Paycheck Laws by State for details). But even in those states that lack such laws, such as Mississippi and Georgia, federal law requires employers to issue a departing employee’s final paycheck on or before the regular payday for the last pay period.
Some states have laws requiring payment to departing employees on the next scheduled payday, which is in alignment with federal laws, while several states mandate immediate pay upon discharge or on the next business day.
Examples of State Laws
If you have been fired or voluntarily quit your job, your former employer may have to pay you sooner than the next regular pay period. Follow the link in the section above for a state-by-state directory of final paycheck laws for more local guidance. Below are examples of state laws establishing final payment deadlines:
California: Final check must be given immediately if you were fired, and within 72 hours you quit (or immediately if you have given more than 72 hours’ notice)
Florida: No law
Illinois: Final check must be given on the next scheduled payday, regardless of whether you quit or were fired
Massachusetts: Final check must be given immediately if you were fired, and on the next scheduled payday (or on the Saturday following your resignation if there is no scheduled payday) if you quit
Texas: Final check must be given within six days if you were fired, and on the next scheduled payday if you quit
Still Waiting? How to File a Complaint
If you have not been paid on your regular payday after leaving a job, and efforts to remedy the situation with your former employer have failed, 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 offers additional mandates for the issuance of last paychecks to departing employees, see FindLaw’s State Labor Agencies directory and contact the appropriate office to file a complaint.
Get a Free Evaluation of Your Employment Law Concerns
Whether you’ve moved on to another employer or were fired from your last job, you are entitled to your last paycheck in accordance with state law. If you’re still waiting for your last paycheck after the statutory deadline, you may want to explore your legal options.