When you leave your job, whether you quit, are fired, or are laid off, you are entitled to receive all of the compensation you have already earned. State laws determine how much time the employer has to get you your final paycheck.
Sometimes, the time limit depends on whether you left voluntarily or involuntarily. And, some states require employers to pay employees for accrued vacation time when they leave a job.
State law determines when your employer must send you your final paycheck after you've quit your job. In many states, employees who quit are entitled to their paycheck on the next scheduled payday, according to the usual payroll cycle.
Some states make an exception for employees who give a lot of notice before quitting; these employees may be entitled to receive their final paychecks sooner.
In California, for example, if an employee quits with at least 72 hours' notice the final paycheck is due immediately. Otherwise, the check is due within 72 hours.
Almost half of the states set a shorter time limit for employees who are fired or laid off than for employees who quit. Nevada, for instance, requires employers to send the final paycheck within three days if the employee has been terminated. Employees who quit must receive their final check within seven days or the next payday, whichever comes earlier.
Some states require employers to pay fired or laid off employees immediately or the next day after the termination. For example, in Connecticut the final paycheck for fired or laid off employees is due by the next business day. For employees who quit, the check is due by the next scheduled payday.
Find out your state's rules in Nolo's Chart, Final Paychecks for Departing Employees.
Many states require employers to include an employee's accrued, unused vacation time in the employee's final paycheck. Some states require this regardless of the employer's policies; other states require it only if the employer doesn't have a contrary policy or practice, or only if the employer has agreed to cash out vacation.
State laws generally don't require employers to cash out other types of accrued time off, such as sick or personal leave. However, if an employer has adopted a paid time off (PTO) policy combining all types of paid leave into one leave entitlement, the employer may have to cash out accrued PTO if state law requires the employer to pay employees for vacation time.
If you don't receive your final paycheck, or it doesn't include all of the compensation you are owed, contact your state labor department or labor commissioner. There should be an expedited process for filing a complaint against your employer. You may also want to contact an employment lawyer to discuss your options.