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W-2 Confusion

Q: I lost my job in December 2011. However (after reminding my previous employer), I was not reimbursed for my unused vacation time until January 2012. The check for the vacation time shows a pay period of 12/5/11-12/19/11 and the date of the check was 1/18/12.

Today I received my W-2 in the mail and the check for my unused vacation time was not included on it. Because I have not worked there in 2012, and these monies should have been disbursed in 2011, shouldn't it be included on the 2011 W-2?

A: When an employee separates from a company, there are often many loose ends that need to be addressed. Often times, many employees have questions about final paychecks and benefits. Questions about vacation payouts for unused but accrued vacation time are common as well. Company policies can vary on vacation usage, how vacation time accrues and how vacation time is earned.

I consulted Dan Mayton, District Manager of Paylocity. According to Mayton, "All payroll reporting (including data for W-2s), is based on when the employee is actually paid (or the check date) for the wages, not necessarily the period in which the wages were earned." Because you were paid in 2012 for your unused vacation time, it makes sense that you received a 2012 W-2 for these wages.

Mayton adds, "If you were terminated, you should have been paid for all wages owed to you (including unused but accrued vacation time) on your last active date of employment. However, if you resigned, your wages would have been due to you on the next regular pay day."

I have made two assumptions: 1. that you were employed in Massachusetts and 2. that you were terminated because you state that you "lost your job." Your former employer should have paid you for your unused but accrued vacation on your last date of employment. However, it sounds like you did receive an accurate check in mid-January of 2012. It is unfortunate that you had to remind your previous employer about these monies owed to you. From what you shared in your question, I have assumed that your former employer did send you a check for the full amount that you expected to receive.

If you wanted to file a wage claim against your former employer, you could certainly explore that option with an employment attorney.

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