Q: I just quit a job and received my final paycheck and noticed it was a lot less than expected. I was owed one week of work pay and pay for six vacation days that I earned but did not take. When I reached out to the company to ask, they informed me they prorated my final check and are calculating it by taking my bi-monthly salary and dividing it into how many total days in my final pay period. I tried to explain to them that I believe it should not be the total calendar days in the pay period (15), but how many working days (11) as this is a salaried position, 40 hours, Monday-Friday job and I did not work seven days a week. They also used this calculation to get the day rate to pay my vacation day payout.
The way they calculated it seems to artificially lower my daily rate, but they claim this is how their payroll company has always treated salaried employees and have so for many years. They claim to not understand what I’m talking about when I politely explain the error.
Is this normal for companies to calculate prorated salary and vacation time in Massachusetts? What should I do?
A: You have raised a good question, which we have responded to before in our column. Unfortunately this same issue pops up again and again!
It sounds like your employer is miscalculating your final pay as well as your final vacation pay. The result is an underpayment to you.
I contacted Attorney Valerie Samuels, a partner in the employment law practice with Posternak Blankstein & Lund in Boston. Samuels explains: “Assuming you are an exempt employee paid on a weekly salary, and that your salary typically covers a five-day work week (even if you sometimes work more or less), you should have been paid for 11 days. Accrued vacation time is also considered wages under Massachusetts law. The correct calculation would be to divide your weekly salary by five (based on a five-day work week), in order to determine your daily pay rate, then multiply that amount by eleven. You should have been paid that amount minus normal tax witholdings on the next regular payroll. If you had been terminated, and not resigned, your employer would be required to pay you immediately upon termination.”
Samuels said that you may collect mandatory treble damages under the Massachusetts Wage law if you are not paid in full by the first regular payroll after your resignation. You may also receive payment for any attorney fees you incur in collecting the money. Another option, and it may be an easier alternative would be to file a wage complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General. This can be done online and without an attorney. The Attorney General’s office will help you recover the proper amount due to you, but probably not treble damages.
A third option is to share this blog post with your former employer and give them the opportunity to make it right before you take further steps! They need to begin calculating these wage payouts correctly.
It does not matter whether this error was intentional or not. Employees have the right to prompt payment of wages owed to them.