final pay check after termination

Depending on the circumstances, losing a job can be a stressful experience. Your immediate concern might be how to secure your final paycheck.

Whether you were let go due to layoffs, termination or resignation the way in which you collect that last check differs, with some situations being more emotionally fraught, contentious or difficult than others.

Know Your Rights

In most states, including Minnesota, employers are required to pay employees their final wages promptly upon termination. This is usually either on the next regular payday or within a specified timeframe mandated by state law.

Minnesota is fairly strict on the enforcement of terminated workers’ rights, requiring employers to pay terminated workers within 24 hours of their demand for wages. Note the word “demand”. If you don’t explicitly request your last wages be paid right away, your employer will likely pay your last check on the next regular payday.

That state’s laws are laxer for employees who simply quit. Those workers must be paid their remaining wages on the next upcoming payday that is more than five days after they quit. In other words, if you simply quit you may have to wait for the upcoming payday to get your last check, even if it’s more than a week away. Minnesota statute does require all workers who quit, are laid off or terminated to be paid within 20 days.

There are potential exceptions that are designed to protect businesses in situations where an employee may have had company property or was entrusted with company money.

Benefits are more complicated. Whether you will be paid the value of benefits – like vacation days, sick days, PTO or personal time – depends on the company policies stipulated in your contract with your employer. If your contract does entitle you to the value of those days after separation, they must pay them within 30 days of when they are due according to your employment agreement.

However, many employers don’t have employment contracts that require those days to be paid out after separation, in which case you likely won’t be able to recover those funds even if they had accrued.

Contact Your Employer

Upon termination, reach out to your employer or the appropriate department to inquire about the process for receiving your final paycheck. In many cases, employers will issue final paychecks through direct deposit or mail them to the employee’s last known address.

Some people find this step more difficult than others, especially if the way you quit or were terminated was contentious or particularly unpleasant. The law applies regardless of the emotions or circumstances involved.

Return Company Property

Employers are given more latitude if the employee who quit or was terminated possessed company property, such as laptops, keys or uniforms. In Minnesota, companies have 10 days to audit their records to determine the value of assets the employee kept before deciding how to proceed.

There are some restrictions on employers even in these scenarios (Minnesota Statute 181.79), and they may be required to take legal action against employees who refuse to voluntarily pay for the lost or stolen property.

If you’re unable to return company property immediately, communicate with your employer to make arrangements for its return.

There might be other legal complications involved when withholding property or data deemed to be confidential or only meant to be accessed by employees. If you still have access to company software or systems, it’s typically in your best interest not to use them after your termination. Vindictively changing or deleting company data can potentially expose you to legal liability.

It’s best to be proactive in returning any company-owned items promptly to avoid delays in receiving your final wages. Avoid damaging or destroying company property or information, even if you’re justifiably angry at your treatment, because you could still potentially face civil or even criminal consequences.

Legal Complications and Contractual Obligations

While employees are generally entitled to receive their final wages upon termination, certain legal complications or contractual obligations may arise that could affect the process.

For example, if you’re subject to a non-compete agreement or have signed a contract with specific termination clauses, your employer may withhold your final paycheck until these obligations are fulfilled. Similarly, if you owe your employer money for any outstanding debts or expenses, such as a negative balance in a benefits account, your final paycheck may also be adjusted accordingly as stipulated in your employment contract.

Addressing Signing Bonuses

If you received a signing bonus upon starting your employment, you may wonder whether you’re obligated to repay it upon termination. The answer to this depends on the terms outlined in your employment agreement or signing bonus agreement.

In some cases, signing bonuses may be structured as a forgivable loan, which is where a portion of the bonus is forgiven over time based on continued employment. If you leave your job before the forgiveness period expires, you may be required to repay a prorated amount of the signing bonus.

If you have difficulty understanding any of the terms and conditions in your employment contract, it may be best to consult with a Minneapolis–St. Paul attorney who is experienced in employee contract disputes.

Is Your Employer Violating Minnesota Law by Refusing to Pay Your Final Paycheck Promptly?

The speed with which your employer is required to pay you is dependent on a number of factors, including the context of your separation and whether you still possess company funds or property.

An attorney can assess your situation, review relevant documents and advocate on your behalf to make sure your rights are protected. Whether you’re facing delays in receiving your final wages or have questions about contractual obligations, an employment attorney may be able to help you resolve the matter effectively.

Fill out the form on our Find an Attorney page to connect with a professional employment lawyer today. For more information, contact us here on our website or give us a call at (612) 752-6699.