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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12352
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I just kind of got laid off. Yeah, I know. A consultant came

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I just kind of got laid off. Yeah, I know. A consultant came into my company and changed my schedule after a year. They put me on graveyard. I am unable to work this and told them it would be very difficult to please work with me. They told me they were unable to. I submitted my PTO and vacation. The next day (yesterday)
I was locked out of my computer. I called them and they said due to submitting my vacation and scheduling conflict it was best we, "PART WAYS". I asked them if I was terminated. They said no just parting ways. Before this we had to submit a so called private review of the company and mine was honest but not nice. The next thing I know we are Parting Ways. I have the company laptop, cell phone, etc. They told me to go to fed ex and over night it on the company account. They will not pick it up. Until this I will not get my final paycheck.
I've never had this happen before. Is this legal the way they're doing this?
Thank You,
Lori xxxxx

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am truly sorry to hear that you have b een let go.

Before I provide an answer, can you please clarify what you mean when you say that you "submitted" your PTO and vacation?

I very much look forward to assisting you regarding this matter.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Paid Tim Off. I had to work Christmas and New Years. I'm suppose to get a day off in place of working the holiday. It's called PTO. Paid time off. I also have 45 hours of vacation. I've been trying to get it approved for weeks and it's been denied. They told me it would be on my final check once I send back the laptop, etc. I have no problem sending back anything. It's kind of weird though. 8 people have quit in the last 2 months and they have Fed Ex pick it up. In my case I have to send it back. They never fire anyone. They wait until they quit. My case is different. I was very vocal about how upset I was with the schedule change that they told me they would not work with me.

Thank you for your reply. I do understand what PTO is but I was wondering what you meant when you said that you "submitted" it. I take it you simply mean that you submitted a request to use it. That being the case, it bears little relevance to my answer, but I wanted to be clear I understood before proceeding any further.

There is good news and bad news concerning your situation, and I hope that you won't mind if I first start by explaining the bad news.

The bad news is that termination under the circumstances you describe is not illegal. This is because the state of California ascribes to the doctine of "at will" employment, which provides that either party (employer or employee) may terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, regardless of whether the basis is fair or reasonable.

The courts have made very clear that, absent discriminatory motives (i.e., race religion, gender, ethnicity), they will not be the arbiters of general claims for workplace unfairness, reasoning that if such cases were allowed to proceed, hundreds would be filed every day. This is certainly not to diminish your frustration, which are justified, but rather to explain the policy behind the law, which may assist in your understanding.

The more faborable news is that, while your termination would not be illegal under the facts described, your employer CANNOT withhold your final paycheck (which must include all accrued PTO and vacation, by the way) until you return company materials.

By California law, an employee is entitled to payment of his or her final wages immediately upon termination. (Labor Code 201) Not only that, but failure to immediately pay a departing employee's final wages will typically result in the assessment of a penalty in the amount of the employee's daily rate of pay for each day the wages go unpaid up to 30 days.

So for example, if an employee who makes $100 a day is terminated on on the first of the month but not paid his final wages until the 20th, he would be entitled to a $2,000 penalty from his employer in addition to the earned wages. This remains the case even if the reason he was not paid was because he held onto company property.

This is not to say that you have a "right" to hold on to this property. Simply that your employer cannot use payment of your final wages as leverage against you to get you to return the property. Their recourse against you would be to sue you in small claims court for the return of the property or its reasonable value.

So to summarize, while termination under the circumstance you describe is regretfully legal absent a discriminatory motive, withholding your final paycheck is not. Employees are entitled to payment of their final wages, including all accrued PTO and vacation, immediately upon termination (even if your employer wants to call it a "parting of ways"). A penalty assessment will arise where wages are not promptly paid.

To initiate a wage claim against your employer to compel them to pay your final wages plus penalties, you woudl want to file with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. To file a wage claim with the DLSE, visit this link:

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Very best wishes and happy holidays to you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for the reply. I don't know if it makes any difference that my employeer is located in Florida, which they are.


Secondly, regarding the final paycheck. do I email them and tell them to pick up the company materials, do I run to to Fed Ex. Or just wait?

How should I handle that part?

Thank you for your reply.

Your question had been submitted to the California Employment Law section, and so I answered according to California law. Unfortunately, Florida law is less favorable to employees when it comes to final paychecks in that they do not have any statute that governs when final payment of wages must be made.

Since there is no law in Florida governing timely payment of wages, you can still sue to recover those wages but will not be entitled to any penalty assessment for the delay in payment.

This sort of evens the playing field between you and your employer on this issue. You can sue them for non-payment of wages, and they can sue you for failing to return company property. It turns into a stand-off where neither of you stand anything to really gain from holding out.

For this reason, it would be best, XXXXX XXXXX comply with the company's request for return of property via Fedex in order to ensure prompt payment of your outstanding wages.

Unfortunately, the part of my original answer governing termination of "at will" employees is the same in Florida as California, and so you would still have no recourse despite your termination being unfair unless you could prove a discriminatory motive.

Again, I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the best. If I have answered your question, I would be very grateful for a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you.

Kindest regards.
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