Employee Paycheck Rights

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The U.S. Department of Labor established a number of laws to protect employee rights. One major rule is that employers must pay employees appropriately for time worked. The employee can be paid wages or salary with a paycheck. Federal law applies to all employees, but some states may set their own paycheck laws. State laws vary; therefore, the employer must consult with its state labor board to know if it has established such laws.

Payment Criteria

Many state laws, such as those in Virginia and California, require the employer to establish a pay period. This enables the employee to receive his paycheck on a specific payday. Typically, employees are paid weekly, biweekly, semimonthly or monthly. Furthermore, according to the DOL, if the employer uses a time-keeping system, such as a time clock or time sheets, it should avoid major discrepancies to avoid raising uncertainty about the accuracy of records. The employee's paycheck should reflect his approved time card data.

Last Paycheck

The DOL notes that federal law does not require the employer to give terminated employees their last paycheck right away. Consequently, the employer can pay the amount due on the upcoming pay period. But, state law may mandate immediate payment.


Employees often believe that they are all entitled to a pay stub. Notably, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs the federal record-keeping laws. Employers must keep accurate payroll records, such as hours worked and wages paid, for a minimum of three years. But, the FLSA does not require employers to give employees a pay stub/wage statement, itemizing the terms of the paycheck. However, state law may dictate differently. For instance, Alaska and California employers must give employees a pay stub. But, the state of Georgia does not require a pay stub. Furthermore, employers in Kansas only need to give employees a pay stub if they request it.

New Hire/Termination

Hourly employees are paid based on hours worked during the pay period; therefore, in new hire and termination cases, they are paid the exact hours worked during the respective time frame. According to the DOL, employees paid on a salary basis receive a fixed wage each payday. The exceptions to this rule may include new hire and termination situations. The salaried employee is entitled to his paycheck during this time frame but only on a prorated basis, if applicable.

For instance, if the salaried worker was hired four business days into the biweekly pay period, the employer needs to pay her from her hire date to the end of the pay period. Similarly, if she terminates, she is entitled to pay for days worked up until her termination date.


If the employee has not received his final paycheck by the next regularly scheduled payday, she can contact the state labor department or the DOL's Wage and Hour Division. Furthermore, if the employer violates employee paycheck rights, the latter can file a complaint with the DOL.



About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.

Photo Credits

  • check in macro image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com