How Soon After Termination Does My Employer Have To Pay Me?
In addition to enduring the shock of losing their job, many discharged employees are also left to wonder when they will receive their payment of final wages from their former employer. Fortunately, the Arizona legislature has addressed this issue very clearly. A.R.S. § 23-353 states, in relevant part:
When an employee is discharged from the service of an employer, he shall be paid wages due him within seven working days or the end of the next regular pay period, whichever is sooner.
So you must receive payment of your final wages upon termination, at the latest, "within seven working days." If there is a regular pay period before that, then the payment must be made at that time.
Unfortunately, the term "working days" is not clearly defined in the statute and may be subject to differing interpretation. Of course, that only becomes important if the wages are not paid and it is worthwhile to bring a claim for the failure to pay such wages.
What Happens If I Am Not Paid In Time?
The penalty for failing to pay wages in a timely manner is set forth in A.R.S. § 23-355(A):
...if an employer, in violation of this chapter, fails to pay wages due any employee, the employee may recover in a civil action against an employer or former employer an amount that is treble the amount of the unpaid wages.
So it would appear that if your employer does not pay your final paycheck in time it will have to pay treble, or three times, the amount of the unpaid wages. Unfortunately, the courts have interpreted this penalty as being permissive rather than mandatory. This means that the court does not have to award treble damages and, based on the cases addressing the issue, may choose not to unless the violation is egregious.
The effect of this interpretation is that if your employer is a few days late with your final payment it may not be worth pursuing a legal claim. Of course, if the tardiness has caused additional damages it may be worth discussing with an Arizona employment attorney to determine whether the matter should be pursued further.