Wage & Hour Laws -- Employee
Final paycheck rules in Virginia regulate how and when an employer should provide the remaining pay to an employee who has recently resigned or been fired. Employers must follow these laws and provide a possible route for employees to recover unpaid wages and any additional compensation they are eligible for.
Virginia law states what, if any, deductions an employer can take from a final paycheck and what additional wages must be included, such as pay for commission and unused vacation time. While leaving a job after resigning or being fired can be tough, understanding the rules on final paychecks can help reduce some of the anxiety. Your employee rights depend, in part, upon state laws, so it’s important to know the laws specific to Virginia.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, an employee’s final paycheck should be scheduled on or before the end of their next pay period, and should include all unpaid wages the employee earned. This requirement is the same for the final paychecks of employees who have been fired and those who resigned, regardless of whether they provided two weeks’ notice.
Breaking these laws could make your employer liable for civil penalties in court, requiring them to pay the wronged employees all of their earned, unpaid wages plus interest.
Virginia law states that an employer is not allowed to withhold any part of an employee’s wages unless:
In practice, this means that deductions from final paychecks are allowed, for example, to pay federal taxes or for a recurring charitable payment the employee agreed to, but not because an employer wants to charge a departing employee for ordinary business costs the employer should cover. This could include the cost of prior employee business travel that the employee was not originally expected to pay, as one example.
If an employer offers vacation days written into the benefits packages for employees, it’s possible that the employer may be bound to pay for unused days in a final paycheck, depending upon the employment contract. Some employees leave a job with a significant amount of unused vacation that they believe represents a large amount of unpaid wages, but find they aren’t actually entitled to it. Many employers who are not required to pay out for vacation days will opt to do so, anyway.
In general, the state of Virginia does not require that employers offer vacation days, and so does not directly regulate whether they must be paid out after an employee resigns or gets fired. However, if an employer provides paid vacation as part of the employee’s wages and benefits, employers may find that there’s a legal obligation to pay out for the unused days in that final payment.
While Virginia state law dictates many of these employee payment laws, some federal laws apply as well. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) outlines national minimum standards for paying owed wages, overtime hours, and other facets of the employer-employee relationship. Each state can add other laws on top of these minimum standards, but they can’t take away any of the protections that are already there.
Wage laws vary depending on if the employees in question are exempt or nonexempt. Exempt employees are those excused from certain pay requirements, like those with certain salaried positions that exclude them from overtime pay. Nonexempt employees, those who receive an hourly wage or work part-time, are entitled to additional FLSA legal protections.
Final paychecks need to include all wages due to an employee for all the hours they worked up until they clocked out for the last time. Payment for overtime hours should also appear on this next, final check. Employers are required to pay nonexempt employees at least 1.5 times their normal pay rate for each hour they worked in excess of 40 hours a week. Failure to do so could result in additional damages owed to the employee, as well as fines and penalties for every violation.
If you do not receive your final paycheck by the end of the next scheduled pay period after your last day on the job, or you want to dispute the amount you received, you can file a claim with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. The Labor and Employment Law Division can investigate claims against employers and may start legal proceedings on your behalf.
If you’ve been cheated out of wages on your final paycheck, you may want to search for a Virginia employment attorney as well. An experienced employment lawyer can help you analyze the facts and information of your situation and assess the strength of your claim. If the case goes to negotiations or to court, a knowledgeable attorney could defend your rights. An attorney could also help you recover more money than you know to ask for on your own. If your claim is successful, an employer may be ordered to pay your legal costs in addition to the unpaid wages and interest.
Employees like you deserve to be paid all the wages that are due to them for the time they worked, regardless of how they leave their jobs. They should search their final paychecks, previous pay stubs, employee handbook, contract, and other information about their employment to ensure that everything adds up and they received every dollar they deserve.