Not surprisingly, most states require employers to pay employees any earned “wages” within a certain period of time after their employment ends.  Many states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, the time period to pay outstanding wages depends on how the employment relationship ends.

In Massachusetts, employees who voluntarily terminate their employment are due their unpaid wages on the next regular pay day, while employees who are discharged must be paid on the day of their discharge.  G.L.c. 149, Sec. 148.

In Connecticut, employees who voluntarily leave their employment are due their outstanding wages on the regular pay day, while employees who are discharged from their employment must be paid by the next business day.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71c.

So what constitutes “wages”?  The answer may seem simple, but it is not, and the answer varies from state to state.

The Massachusetts Wage Act provides: “The word ‘wages’ shall include any holiday or vacation payments due an employee under an oral or written agreement.”  G.L.c. 149 Sec. 148.  Recently in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that accrued unused sick time does not constitute “wages” under the Massachusetts Wage Act.  TZE-KIT Mui v. Massachusetts Port Authority, (January 29, 2018).

In Connecticut, “wages” are defined as “compensation for labor or services rendered by an employee, whether the amount is determined on a time, task, piece, commission or other basis of calculation.  With regard to unused vacation or sick time, employers in Connecticut have flexibility.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71a.  Employers in Connecticut are required to state in writing their policy as to whether vacation and/or sick time will be paid out upon termination (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71a ), and then will be expected to follow their policy.  (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-76k).

If you have any questions regarding an employer’s obligation on either state or federal law, please do not hesitate to contact one of the members of the Murtha Cullina’s Labor and Employment Group.