At resignation, how final wages are calculated matters

Q: I just quit a job and received my final paycheck and noticed
it was a lot less than expected. I was owed one week of work pay and pay
for six vacation days that I earned but did not take. When I reached
out to the company to ask, they informed me they prorated my final check
and are calculating it by taking my bi-monthly salary and dividing it
into how many total days in my final pay period. I tried to explain to
them that I believe it should not be the total calendar days in the pay
period (15), but how many working days (11) as this is a salaried
position, 40 hours, Monday-Friday job and I did not work seven days a
week. They also used this calculation to get the day rate to pay my
vacation day payout.

The way they calculated it seems to artificially lower my
daily rate, but they claim this is how their payroll company has always
treated salaried employees and have so for many years. They claim to not
understand what I’m talking about when I politely explain the error.

Is this normal for companies to calculate prorated salary and vacation time in Massachusetts? What should I do?

A: You have raised a good question, which we have responded to before
in our column.  Unfortunately this same issue pops up again and again!

It sounds like your employer is miscalculating your final pay as well
as your final vacation pay.  The result is an underpayment to you.

I contacted Attorney Valerie Samuels, a partner in the employment law
practice with Posternak Blankstein & Lund in Boston.  Samuels
explains: “Assuming you are an exempt employee paid on a weekly salary,
and that your salary typically covers a five-day work week (even if you
sometimes work more or less), you should have been paid for 11 days.
 Accrued vacation time is also considered wages under Massachusetts law.
The correct calculation would be to divide your weekly salary by five
(based on a five-day work week), in order to determine your daily pay
rate, then multiply that amount by eleven. You should have been paid
that amount minus normal tax witholdings on the next regular payroll.
 If you had been terminated, and not resigned, your employer would be
required to pay you immediately upon termination.”

Samuels said that you may collect mandatory treble damages under the
Massachusetts Wage law if you are not paid in full by the first regular
payroll after your resignation. You may also receive payment for any
attorney fees you incur in collecting the money.  Another option, and it
may be an easier alternative would be to file a wage complaint with the
Massachusetts Attorney General. This can be done online and without an
attorney.  The Attorney General’s office will help you recover the
proper amount due to you, but probably not treble damages.

A third option is to share this blog post with your former employer
and give them the opportunity to make it right before you take further
steps!   They need to begin calculating these wage payouts correctly.

It does not matter whether this error was intentional or not.  Employees have the right to prompt payment of wages owed to them.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.