Ghosting: Issuing Final Paychecks When an Employee Disappears

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At one time, the only people who seemed to get “ghosted” were millennials in the dating world who shared their stories across social media. Unfortunately, the traumatic practice of ending personal relationships suddenly, by cutting off all communication and providing no explanation, has spread to the professional world and is becoming a common practice for workers who wish to exit companies. In fact, some experts estimate as much as a 20 percent increase in employee ghosting in 2018.

What is Employee Ghosting & Why is it Happening?

You may know how ghosting works in the dating world, where the term originated, but what does it look like in the business world? It’s simple. One day the individual just stops coming to work. They exit silently and give no notice. When attempts to phone or email the departed employee are unsuccessful, you’ll quickly realize you may have a better chance at winning the lottery than receiving a return phone call or email from the former employee.

According to Washington Post, the record low unemployment rate may be partially to blame. With more job openings than workers available to fill positions, individuals just don’t feel the need to stick around for the awkward conversation with their soon to be ex-boss. Other reasons individuals ghost employers include the rise of social media and impersonal relationships, feeling underappreciated, poor communication between managers and workers, individuals who are described as young and restless, and those who say they just got a bad vibe from the workplace.  

Cutting Losses and Issuing Final Pay

When it comes to business etiquette, ghosting will always be considered poor form. However, employee ghosting is becoming a common practice at all stages in the game - from interviews and job offers to first day or one year into the employment relationship. When an employee splits without notice, it’s best to cut your losses and move on, and the better you become at adapting, the less likely your business will suffer.

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Once you realize you’ve been ghosted, you’ll want to wrap things up on your end. Let’s discuss issuing final pay.

Under federal law, there are no overarching rules governing when and how final pay should be issued. So, employers should look to state laws, which can differ drastically from state-to-state. When businesses are ghosted, the employee departure is typically documented as “quit without notice” which is important when considering state final pay rules.

Here are the final pay rules for the states of Kansas and Missouri:  

Kansas Rules:

In the State of Kansas, whether an employee quits or is terminated, final pay should occur no later than the next regular payday. Full details via the Kansas State Legislature on K.S.A. 44-315 regarding final pay and damages for willful non-payment by the employer are as follows:

  • Whenever an employer discharges an employee or whenever an employee quits or resigns, the employer shall pay the employee's earned wages not later than the next regular payday upon which he or she would have been paid if still employed as provided under K.S.A. 44-314 either through the regular pay channels or by mail postmarked within the deadlines herein specified if requested by the employee.
  • If an employer willfully fails to pay an employee wages as required by K.S.A. 44-314, and   amendments thereto, or as required under subsection (a) of this section, such employer shall be liable to  the employee for the wages due and also shall be liable to the employee for a penalty in the fixed amount of 1% of the unpaid wages for each day, except Sunday and legal holidays, upon which such failure continues after the eighth day after the day upon which payment is required or in an amount equal to 100% of the unpaid wages, whichever is less.  For the purpose of such additional damages, the failure to pay shall not be deemed to continue after the date of the filing of a petition in bankruptcy with respect to the employer if he or she is adjudicated bankrupt upon such petition nor shall it be deemed to continue after an appeal is filed under K.S.A. 44-322a, and amendments thereto, until the decision on appeal becomes final.Know Before They Go: How to Ease the Pain of Employee Departures

Missouri Rules:

In the State of Missouri, determination of when final pay should be made is based on how the employee separated the company. In general, if the employee is terminated, final pay should be issued immediately. If, however, the employee quits, the law does not provide a deadline for issuing final pay. That said, it is generally accepted final pay shall be issued on the next regular payday. State of Missouri Title XVIII Labor and Industrial Relations Chapter 290 states the following:

  • Whenever any person, firm or corporation doing business in this state shall discharge, with or without cause, or refuse to further employ any servant or employee thereof, the unpaid wages of the servant or employee then earned at the contract rate, without abatement or deduction shall be and become due and payable on the day of the discharge or refusal to longer employ and the servant or employee may request in writing of his foreman or the keeper of his time to have the money due him, or a valid check therefor, sent to any station or office where a regular agent is kept; and if the money or a valid check therefor, does not reach the station or office within seven days from the date it is so requested, then as a penalty for such nonpayment the wages of the servant or employee shall continue from the date of the discharge or refusal to further employ, at the same rate until paid; provided, such wages shall not continue more than sixty days.  
  • This section shall not apply in the case of an employee whose remuneration for work is based primarily on commissions and whose duties include collection of accounts, care of a stock or merchandise and similar activities and where an audit is necessary or customary in order to determine the net amount due.

Delivery and Unclaimed Wages

Employers should always attempt to pay final compensation through their regular payroll delivery method, whether through direct deposit or mail. In the event the check is returned as undeliverable, attempt to reach out through other last known communication methods, including email and phone. If the wages are still undeliverable, the final pay should be held by the employer for a set amount of time, in most states three to five years, and then turned over to the state as unclaimed property.

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Written by Herman McDaniel