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Can an employer withhold a paycheck?
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Can an employer withhold a paycheck?

I live in the state of Maryland. On September 30th, 2010, I quit my current employer and left my keys. I get paid on the 15th and 30th of every month, so I should've received a paycheck today for 4 days of work. I logged onto my bank account this morning but there was no deposit. I tried contact my old Office Manager, but did not receive a response from her, so I went straight to her manager. She responded back with, "We will need you to please return our employee handbook you were given when you were hired, Thank you". Now, I've never known an employer to request a PRINTED employee handbook back upon leaving your position. If I would've known that I was going to be ask to return such items, I would've given them back immediately upon receipt. I sent her an e-mail saying that, but received no response. I then sent another e-mail asking her what will be done about my paycheck. No response. My fiance' says I should threaten to hire an attorney, but I don't know that I want to go that far. My question is, in the state of Maryland, how long does an employer have before they can truly get in trouble for not paying you. Mind you, this check is only going to be around $500, but $500 is $500, and I worked for it, so I believe I should've been paid for this. Any help would be greatly appreciated!


They can't legally withhold your wages. By law they must pay you on the next regular payday as if you were working with them. So after today, they are basically in violation of MD wage laws.

If they have not paid you on time go to http://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/wagepay/wpremedies.shtml and consider your remedies.

They can require you to return the handbook - but that's something completely separate of wages from a legal standpoint.

What to do: Assert your legal knowledge of your rights. Write Human Resources an e-mail and let them know you are aware of your wage and employment rights, and that they had until the first payday after you left to pay your final wages. That this date has now passed, and you would like to remedy this without taking other action. Then include the link to the website giving you this information.

Explain (again if you already have) that the handbook they want back was given to you as a series of papers printed from a computer - not an actual book. And that you don't know where those papers are. Give them a deadline (Monday at 5pm) to respond and remedy the situation. Close your e-mail with "After that time I will have no other choice than to file a wage complaint with the state. I look forward to your prompt response."

Comrade Snarkovich
Why don't you just return the handbook and be done with it? Of course it's not legal for them to do this, but the cost and time of fighting it legally is less than the value of the check they're holding.

Your fiance is a fool. If you threaten to hire an attorney they'll just laugh and say "You want to pay an attorney several hundred dollars over a $500 check? Knock yourself out." Then they'll hold your check just out of spite so you can blow the whole thing on attorney's fees.

Here's a link to the answer you seek:


And here is a link as to what your options are if they do not pay you your wages.


Bottom line is this: they may WANT their handbook back, but they CANNOT withhold your wages. This is illegal. Use these links to find a local office near you and give them a call. Let them know what your previous employer is doing and they will likely help you with your claim.

Good luck to you!

Hiring an attorney would be really dumb and would cost more than the amount you're owed. You could report this to your state dept of labor and it won't cost you anything.

But wouldn't it be easier and faster to just return their manual?

the tax lady
Hint, photocopy any relevant sections of the employee handbook before returning it as it covers some of your rights. FWIW, I've never been asked to return one.

If you have to file with your state to get paid, here's the link.


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