Because of recently-enacted changes to the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, West Virginia employers will have more time to pay final wages to discharged employees. Prior to this change, the Wage Payment and Collection Act required that employers pay discharged employees within 72 hours of termination. The revised law, which will become effective July 12, 2013, now mandates that payment to discharged employees be made no later than the next regular payday or four business days, whichever comes first. “Business days” are defined as days on which state offices are open for regular business. Payment is to be made through regular pay channels or, if requested by the discharged employee, by mail. An employer remains liable for three times the unpaid amount to an employee who is not paid in a timely manner. The timing of payment to employees who are laid off or resign without a pay period’s notice is unchanged; payment must be made no later than the next regular payday. Similarly, employers must still pay employee who resign with a pay period’s notice on the employee’s last day of work.
With these changes, employers will experience a measure of relief from the prior draconian 72-hour rule. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, the relief may not be quite as generous. For example, if the employee is discharged on a Wednesday before a Friday payday, under the “next regular payday or four business days, whichever comes first” rule, the employer now may have only two business days to provide that last paycheck. So, the employer may actually have less time to make payment to a discharged employee than prior to the amendment. By and large, however, this amendment will provide much needed relief from the prior 72-hour rule. In any case, the best practice for employers is still to have the final paycheck ready to be given to the employee at the discharge meeting or exit interview. Following that best practice will alleviate any possible liability for late payment under this Act.
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