Can My Employer Make Me Drive Two Hours To Pick Up My Pay?

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An AOL Jobs reader asks:

Hello Donna,

I have an issue pertaining to my employer's weekly pay stub. Effectively starting within the next month or so, all paychecks will have to be picked up off-site. My company has a headquarters in NJ, which is about two hours from my actual job's site. The paychecks will now have to be picked up personally at this site, two hours away from my actual job site, because they don't want to put forth the effort to distribute the paychecks to the actual sites anymore. I would simply like to know if there is anything illegal with what they are attempting to do. I feel I shouldn't have to wait for my paycheck, just because they are too stubborn to deliver our payment to us themselves.

Thank you for your patience and time.

So, a four hour round-trip drive just to get paid? Why not make you go to Alaska for your checks? Unfortunately, there is no federal law specifying the manner or place of delivery of pay for employees, so you have to look at your state law.

As I'm reading New Jersey law, there's nothing specifically saying they can't make you drive to Alaska for your check, but it does say that, for checks, they have to be "on banks where suitable arrangements are made for the cashing of such checks by employees without difficulty and for the full amount for which they are drawn." I think there's an argument that you will encounter significant difficulty if you have to make a four hour round-trip drive. You might want to check with the New Jersey Department of Labor And Workforce Development or an employment lawyer in your state to see if the law protects you from this kind of employer abusive behavior.

As to the rest of us, few states have any law preventing the "drive to Alaska" scenario. Texas is a notable exception, requiring employers to deliver pay at the location where the employee works during regular work hours. I'd love to hear from lawyers and regulators in other states to see if anyone else has a law protecting employees.

Absent a law, here are some things you can do to avoid this four hour trip to get paid:
  • Ask for direct deposit: While some states prohibit mandating employees to be paid by direct deposit, most states allow this method of payment. Many employers will agree to direct deposit of your wages. It's less hassle for them and you that way.
  • Ask them to mail the check: Even if they can't be bothered to pass out the checks at your work location, maybe they'll mail it to you. Of course, you'll have to wait a few days for it to get to you, and it could get lost.
  • Look for another job: An employer that treats employees like this doesn't deserve to keep good employees. Find something else and get the heck out of there.
  • Go to the press: I bet some local TV reporter would love to do a story on this jerk of an employer. Maybe with enough bad publicity your state legislators will decide to pass a law. At least the employer might be shamed into changing this awful policy. Although you might want to wait until you have something else lined up.
Has anyone else out there encountered this kind of employer requirement? I have to say that I've never heard of it before in 28 years in this business. I hope it's an aberration and not a new trend. If it's happened to you, tell me about it in the comments (and tell me what, if anything, you did about it).

If it's happening to enough people, maybe there ought to be a law.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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