Payday Laws and Your Right to a Timely Paycheck
State payday laws determine how frequently an employee must be paid, but not all states have such requirements. In Alabama and South Carolina, for example, employers with more than five employees are only required to give written notice to employees about pay periods. Many state laws governing paydays have exceptions for certain types of businesses and/or employees. Also, workers who are properly classified as "independent contractors" are not covered, with payment terms typically spelled out in the written contract.
Below is a general primer on your rights (or lack thereof) to a regular and timely paycheck under state laws.
Payday Laws in General
While laws governing the frequency and regularity of paychecks vary from state to state, most states operate in a similar manner. For example, all states (with the exception of Alabama and South Carolina) mandate weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, or monthly payments. Additionally, most states require employers to provide notice of payday requirements to their employees.
Some states make distinctions among different industries or between public-sector and private-sector employees. For instance, workers employed by a farm labor contractor in California must be paid at least once every week on a designated business day. Private-sector employees in Hawaii must be paid at least once a month, while public-sector Hawaiian employees are entitled to a semimonthly paycheck.
Your Right to a Timely Paycheck: Examples
As previously mentioned, payday requirements are based on state laws. Some examples are included below:
- Texas: Employees who are exempt from overtime must be paid at least once a month, while non-exempt employees must be paid at least twice per month (all employees must be paid on regularly scheduled days); state law has no provision in the law assessing penalties for late wage payments
- Florida: Officers and employees working for the state must be paid at least once a month; there are no minimum payday requirements for private-sector employees
- Illinois: Employees classified as "executive, administrative, or professional" personnel must be paid monthly; all other employees must be paid on a semimonthly basis
- Massachusetts: Employers must pay employees weekly or biweekly; union members may be paid less frequently if, for example, a monthly pay schedule is negotiated by the union
- New York: Manual laborers must be paid each week (or twice monthly, upon approval); clerical and other workers must be paid at least twice monthly
What to Do if Your Paycheck is Late
Each state has its own procedure for what to do in the case of a missed or late paycheck. But in general, you may do the following if you're not paid on time or on a regular basis:
- Contact your employer (preferably in writing) and ask for the wages owed to you.
- If your employer refuses to do so, consider filing a claim with your state's labor agency.
- File a suit in small claims court or superior court for the amount owed.
- For larger cases involving a late paycheck or payday laws in general, consider hiring a labor attorney to help you.
Get Legal Help to Protect Your Right to a Timely Paycheck
Employers don't have the luxury to pay their workers whenever or however they please -- they're bound by certain federal and state laws. If your paycheck is late, it could affect your ability to pay bills and could cause a chain reaction of unfortunate events. Protect your rights by consulting with an experienced wage and hour attorney near you.