The frequency with which workers must be given their paychecks varies by state in the U.S. In most states there is a state law on the subject. This means that state law prescribes the frequency with which employees must be paid. The frequency of payday can be classified as weekly, biweekly, semimonthly and monthly.

Payday frequency is not prescribed by law in all states. For example, the states of Alabama and South Carolina only require that employers with more than five employees give written notice to employees about pay periods.

The law in some states may also make other provisions regarding paydays. In some states, there are different pay periods for different workers depending on their occupation. Most states also require that an employer give their employees notice of the pay period for their occupation. Also, workers who are classified as “independent contractors” are not covered by paycheck laws. The frequency with which they are paid is usually spelled out in a written contract between the contractor and the employer.

Another complication is that payday frequency can depend on whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. Exempt employees are not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so they are not entitled to overtime pay. Some kinds of jobs are exempt by definition under the law, including outside sales staff and airline employees. In most professions, however, an individual is exempt if they meet the following three criteria:

  • The employee is paid at least $23,600 per year, or $455 per week;
  • The employee Is paid on a salary basis;
  • The employee performs the duties of an exempt job.

A nonexempt employee is one who must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime pay for any time worked over 40 hours a week. Per the FLSA, nonexempt employees must be paid time and a half of their regular pay rate for each hour of overtime. Nonexempt employees mistakenly paid the same as exempt employees, or whose “off-the-clock” hours are not properly recorded and compensated, may file overtime claims with the U.S. Department of Labor. Most workers, especially those who are paid an hourly wage, are nonexempt employees.

Some examples of paycheck laws in some states are as follows:

  • Texas: Exempt employees should be paid at least once a month per the payday law in Texas. Non-exempt employees should be paid at least twice a month. All employees must be paid according to a regular schedule of paydays. The law does not impose any penalties on employers for paying wages late;
  • Florida: Officers and employees who work for the state must be paid at least once a month. There are no minimum payday requirements for employees in the private-sector;
  • Illinois: Employees classified as “executive, administrative, or professional” personnel must be paid monthly; all other employees must be paid semimonthly;
  • Massachusetts: Employers must pay employees weekly or biweekly; union members may be paid less frequently if a different schedule is agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement by the union;
  • New York: Manual laborers must be paid once per week. If they agree, manual laborers can be paid semi-monthly. Clerical and other workers should be paid at least twice monthly;
  • California: Workers should be paid at least twice in each calendar month. The employer must establish a regular schedule for paydays and then post a notice to employees showing the day, the time and the location of wage payment. Paychecks should then go out on the days specified in advance by the employer as regular paydays;
  • Maryland: An employer must set regular pay periods and notify employees about the schedule. Employees who are not administrative, executive or professional employees should be paid semimonthly on regularly scheduled days, e.g. the first and 15th days of the month. Administrative, executive and professional employees can be paid less often than two times per month. If the regular payday falls on a non-work day, the employer must pay employees on the last workday that comes before the non-work day.

Be careful about the terms “biweekly” and “semimonthly.” There is a difference between being paid biweekly and semimonthly. A person who is paid on a biweekly basis is paid every two weeks. A person who is paid semimonthly is paid twice a month, such as on the 15th and last days of a month. In the end, a person who is paid biweekly usually receives 26 paychecks per year; employees paid on a semimonthly basis receive 24 paychecks per year.

What Should I Do If My Paycheck Is Late?

Some states may have a specific procedure specified in state law that employees can follow in the event they do not receive their paycheck on time. However, the general procedure that is common in the U.S. is as follows:

  • A person should first contact their employer and ask when they can expect to receive their paycheck. Experts recommend asking in writing for the paycheck and keeping a copy of the request;
  • If an employer does not pay a person after the person has requested their pay, the person may need to file a claim for the unpaid wages with their state department of labor;
  • Beyond this, if still unpaid, a person may have to file a claim in small claims court; and
  • For larger amounts of money, a person may consider hiring an employment attorney to help them file a lawsuit.

A person should also follow this procedure, or the procedure prescribed in their state, if their employer refuses to pay them, because they did not record their hours worked correctly. As long as a person is still in the employ of their employer, the employer is required to pay them a reasonable estimate of what they would owe for the number of hours the employer typically works during the pay period in question.

When Should I Expect to Receive My Final Pay?

Regardless of whether a person quits or is fired, they are still entitled to be paid for the last pay period they worked. The actual date on which the person must be paid also differs by state, so a person should check the law in the state in which they work.

In general, though, in most states, the possible times at which final pay must be provided are immediately on the day of discharge, the next day, within the next 72 hours, or on the next scheduled payday.

What about Overtime?

Overtime must be paid by the payday of the next payroll period. Only overtime may be delayed in this manner; regular wages cannot be delayed.

What If My Payday Falls on a Holiday?

If the employer observes the holiday and is closed for business, then the payment must be given by the next business day. If the employer does not observe a holiday and is open on a holiday that is also a payday, the employer must provide their employees with their paychecks on that day.

How Often Must I Be Paid?

Below are the general, or default pay periods listed by state. However, remember that in some states the pay period may vary by occupation, and your state’s laws may also have other distinctions, so it is always best to check the law in your state.

Should I Speak with an Attorney About the Payday Requirements for My Job?

If you are having difficulty figuring out the exact payday requirements for your state and occupation, a local employment attorney can assist you. They can also help if you are having trouble getting paid the money your employer owes you.

If you are an employer, you should speak with an attorney to ensure that your payment schedules are in full compliance with the applicable state laws.