My final checks are ‘unreadable’ and I cannot cash or deposit them. The company is very laissez faire. What is my legal recourse?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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My final checks are ‘unreadable’ and I cannot cash or deposit them. The company is very laissez faire. What is my legal recourse?

I did not receive my final pay checks on my last day of work. I assumed my regular pay would remitted to my account per usual. Under this assumption, I asked my old boss to mail my final pay check to me. My last day was Friday. I emailed my boss on Sunday, she mailed the checks on Tuesday. On Monday I realized that I had no money in my account. I emailed payroll to find out what happened to my direct deposit. She explained that they had to make a live check for the pay period as well as the final check. I received the checks on Friday. I tried to cash one on Saturday and could not. I tried to deposit it over the phone and could not. Through both venues I was told that the numbers on the bottom of the check were unreadable. I asked what this meant at the check deposit place and they informed me that the numbers could be offset. I emailed payroll asking for direct deposit and was sent a scan of the checks and asked for a return scan so they could figure out what was wrong with the checks and reissue. I do not have access to a scanner and do not have enough money to go to pay for a scan. I am at my financial end. What can I do to get paid for the past week and a half in addition to my final pay and last paycheck?

Asked on November 30, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, why would you be paid for the last week and half after your final paycheck? Even if it has been inconvenient or a burden for you, your employer does not have to pay you for any time after your last day of work. So if you are seeking compensation after your final day of employement, that is not something you are entitled to.
Your employer does need to pay you up through your final day; therefore, they have to reissue you a clean, depositable check or otherwise get the money to you. If they don't, you can sue them for the money. But a lawsuit, even in small claims court, will take several weeks or a few months. If they are in the process of reissuing a check, you will get the new check or payment long before a lawsuit is resolved. There is no way to expedite the processotherthan by working with them to get this resolved.
It is not your employer's responsibility that you don't have the money to pay for a scan of the check to them--it is not their fault you do not have at least some savings. They are, however, entitled to get or see a copy of the check to investigate what happened, so if you don't cooperate with them in this regard, you will delay getting paid.
Have you tried taking a photograph of the check with a cellphone camera (yours, or borrow one from a friend), then emailing or texting the photo to them? That is one way to "scan" something to someone else--I do it all the time, if I am in a court where there is no photocopier but I need to take a copy of a document: I photograph it and email it to myself to print later.

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