Q. I just fired one of my employees for his constant tardiness. Because it is currently in the middle of a pay period, the employee has some wages due to him. When must I pay him these wages, and am I even required to pay him? I mean, I did fire him for being a terrible employee.
A. Yes, you are absolutely required to pay the employee whatever wages he had earned before his discharge. Because you terminated his employment, all wages and accrued vacation earned but unpaid are due and payable immediately to him. (The same rule applies to layoffs that have no specific return date within the normal pay period.)
You cannot ask or require an employee to wait until the next regular payday for his or her final wages. It is also illegal to withhold a final paycheck to force the former employee to:
- Return tools, uniforms, mobile devices, laptop computers, keys or any other company property
- Pay back money that the employee owes you
- Turn in expense reimbursement forms.
You may only pay the employee his or her earned wages on the next regular payday if the employee was laid off with a return to work date within the pay period and the employee is scheduled to return to work.
The location and method of payment is also important, as discharged employees must be paid at their place of discharge, not yours.
If the discharged employee works at another office location or remotely, you must deliver the final pay at the moment of discharge. If you willfully delay, you may be assessed a waiting time penalty. That means you would have to continue to pay the employee an amount equal to his or her daily rate of pay for each day the wages remain unpaid, up to a maximum of 30 calendar days.