Employees have legal protections, even after they are no longer employed. For many people who have been recently terminated, the challenge of getting your final wages can be complicated when your ex-employer isn’t playing by the rules. You may need an employment attorney to help you receive the wages that are owed to you or even pursue a wrongful termination suit.
Employment Attorney FAQs
The first thing you need to know about payment for terminated employees in Missouris is that there is no legal reason why an employer can withhold your final paycheck. Under Missouri law, your ex-employer is legally obligated to pay your final paycheck for all of the hours you worked during your last pay period within a specific timeframe after your termination.
If an employer ever fails to provide your final paycheck or if they are withholding your paycheck for any reason, they could land themselves in hot water. This is because all employees have rights and protections under both state and federal law. Learn more about laws related to employment before you contact a local employment attorney.
1. How Soon After Termination Must an Employee Be Paid?
So, how soon should you expect your final check after your termination? Legally, Missouri employers are obligated to issue your final paycheck on the same day you are terminated. Failure to provide a paycheck at this time can open the door for legal trouble down the line.
If you are not compensated for your unpaid wages on the day of your termination, then you will be able to send a written request to your ex-employer for your final check. This written request should be responded to within seven days, meaning you should receive your final paycheck a week after sending this letter.
2. What If Your Ex-Employer Refuses?
There are some cases where an ex-employer will refuse to release your final paycheck even after a written request has been submitted. At this point, under Missouri law, your ex-employer is breaking state law, and you may need the help of an employment attorney to seek your compensation. If you have not been paid seven days after your written request, then this will trigger a special penalty for employers.
This penalty essentially reinforces continued payment until you receive your final check. If your employer does not release your final paycheck, then they are legally obligated to continue paying your same hourly wage for 60 days or until you receive your final paycheck. This penalty is meant to act as an incentive so your ex-employer will release your final paycheck more quickly.
3. What Do You Do If Your Paycheck Never Comes?
If your ex-employer continues to violate Missouri state laws by refusing to issue your final paycheck, then it will be time for you to work with your employment attorney to file a civil lawsuit so you can recover your wages. The civil suit will present evidence of when you were terminated, why you were terminated, and your attempts to seek your final paycheck.
An experienced attorney will be able to help you receive the compensation for your unpaid wages and also press the court for additional penalties against your ex-employer, particularly in cases where withholding your final paycheck harmed your life (such as eviction). Employers who violate Missouri state laws may need to pay additional compensation on top of the 60 days of compensation and your final paycheck as a penalty for withholding pay.
4. Are There Exceptions to These Rules?
The deadline for your final paycheck after being terminated may not apply to employees who earn income based on commission. In these cases, you may need a financial expert and an attorney to perform an audit to assess how much commission is owed to you.
Additionally, if you quit instead of being terminated, then there are no specific laws that will protect you. That said, you should still receive your final paycheck after quitting on the next regular payday. If you quit and you don’t receive your final paycheck, then you may need the help of an attorney to recover your unpaid wages.
5. What About Unused Vacation Days?
Missouri employers are not legally required to include vacation days, so there may not be any legal protections that will allow you to claim unused vacation days as part of your final check. However, if your employment contract includes paid vacation days and your case progresses to trial, you may be able to ask the court to include any unused vacation days in your final paycheck.
6. What About Wrongful Termination?
Missouri is an at-will employment state, which essentially means that your employer can fire you at any time and without cause outside of discrimination. While this can make wrongful termination suits more difficult to win, when it comes to your final paycheck, you will still have the same protections.
Even if you were wrongfully terminated, you should still expect to receive compensation for your unpaid wages. If you aren’t paid, then you still have the same legal tactics as any other fired employee, from a written request to a civil suit.
7. How Do You Know If You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated?
As an at-will employment state, Missouri employers don’t need to provide a cause for firing you, but that doesn’t mean you can be fired for any reason, particularly if there are elements of discrimination or harassment involved in your case. For example, your employer is not allowed to fire you because of your gender, race, religion, or sexuality, and your employer can also not fire you in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Other reasons you cannot be fired include:
- Family leave
- Reporting employer or whistleblowing
- Supporting another employee’s claims
- Workers compensation claims
If you believe you have been terminated from your job because of discrimination or harassment, then you will need the help of an attorney to help protect your rights. Wrongful termination lawsuits require extensive evidence, including employee contracts and investigative work, to assess the circumstances around your termination to determine if your ex-employer has violated any laws.
8. Can the State Labor Department Help You?
Many terminated employees try to contact the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Standards to report employers who are not releasing the final paycheck. However, this department does not have any authority to force employees to release compensation to terminated employees. Filing a complaint with this department may put a red flag on your ex-employer, but it will have no meaningful result in your personal effort to gain your unpaid wages. If you want to recover wages, then you will need to utilize state employment rules.
Although Missouri is an at-will employment state, your protections as an employee mean that your ex-employer should provide your unpaid wages on the same day as your termination. If your wages are not paid on the day you are fired, then you can submit a written request that should be honored in seven days, after which your ex-employer will have 60 days to produce your final paycheck. Contact the experienced attorneys at Holman Schiavone, LLC in Kansas City, MO to help you recover your unpaid wages.