Q. Our company pays out bonuses in the year after the work is completed, sometimes late into the first quarter. If an employee resigns prior to the bonus payout date (say in January), do we have to pay that employee the bonus? —A.G., South Carolina
A. In South Carolina, when an employee leaves for any reason, you must pay all wages due within 48 hours or the next regular payday, whichever comes first. To determine whether the bonus applies as “wages due,” carefully review your company policies and practices on bonuses, preferably with legal counsel.
Bottom line: Wage-payment laws vary from state to state, and some states (including South Carolina) have special rules for sales commissions. But employers typically do have the right to write a bonus policy that says employees are eligible for bonus payments only if they're employed on the date the bonus is paid.