What Happens if You Got Fired & the Paychecks Keep Coming?

Paychecks received after termination may be exciting, but you may have to give them back.
Paychecks received after termination may be exciting, but you may have to give them back. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Getting fired from a job usually invokes feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration and even worry. When a check from your former employer appears after you leave, this can lift the dark emotional cloud associated with getting fired. Even so, you have to be careful when checks keep coming following job termination, as you might not be entitled to cash them.

System Glitches

Most of the time, if you get a check from your former employer following termination, it is because the employer's human resources department did not process the termination properly. This occurs more easily in very large companies, where all members of the business may not know each other, and where there is a large amount of documentation required. However, even small businesses sometimes have these errors, particularly since payroll is increasingly automated in modern companies. Problems are more likely if you have a name very similar to someone else in the company, as well.

Remaining Compensation

Typically, state laws stipulate you are entitled to final compensation for general wages anywhere from the day of being fired to 30 days from the date of termination. However, these regulations don't address other compensation, like the money you might have in a retirement account. It can take time for the human resources department to look through your file and ensure you have all the compensation to which you are entitled, so a few checks might come to you after you leave.

What to Do

The best thing to do after getting a check from an employer following termination is to contact the employer's human resources department and ask about the check. HR representatives can look into your inquiry and tell you whether you are entitled to the check amount. Hang onto the check until you get verification in writing from the HR representatives that you can cash it.

Why You Should Wait

If the employer who fired you discovers they have overpaid you in error, they have the right to request the money they gave you back. If you don't do this, the employer can sue you to get the money you weren't entitled to have. Relations with your former employer may sour further as a result. This may impact your ability to get another job, as employers within one industry network with each other informally and may talk to one other when calling about your previous work history.

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