A person can be fired for many reasons, from doing his job improperly to simply being the victim of structural layoffs. However, in no case can an employer keep the wages of a person who has been fired for work that has already been performed. While the employer may be allowed some deductions, he cannot keep the person's paycheck just because he fired them.
When a person is fired, it means that the employment contract that he previously held with the employer has been severed. Essentially, a person will not be allowed to work for the employer anymore and the employer will not be obligated to pay him. However, this termination is not retroactive. Regardless of why the person was fired, the employer must pay the person for the work that he has performed according to the terms of his contract.
The last paycheck is no different than the paycheck that came before it. If the employer is paying an hourly wage, then the employee is entitled the amount of money that he earned based on the number of hours that he worked. Similarly, if the wage was provided as a salary, the person is entitled to his total salary, prorated to the date he was terminated.
An employer is allowed to make certain deductions from the final paycheck. For example, if an employee owes the employer money or has not returned company property, then the employer is allowed to deduct these costs from the person's final paycheck. However, the employee must be first given a chance to pay these costs. An employer must also explain why a person's paycheck is being held back.
If an employer refuses to provide a person with his last paycheck, the individual can take several courses of action. First, if he can afford it, he can consult an employment lawyer. The employment lawyer will assess his case and provide him with legal options. If this is prohibitively expensive, then the person may wish to consult the Department of Labor, where he can file a complaint against the employer.