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Understanding fringe benefits under Michigan employment law

Losing a job can be difficult in Michigan and across the U.S. Fortunately, there are laws in place that are designed to protect employees and provide them with the employment benefits they are supposed to receive. When an employee is dismissed from his or her job, that does not eliminate the employer responsibility to pay fringe benefits that are owed. Understanding what fringe benefits are, under what circumstances they must be paid upon dismissal, and what can be done legally if they are not paid are all keys to being treated fairly.

The Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act was passed in 1978. By fringe benefits, compensation is due to an employee based on what is in the contract. That includes sick time, injury time, time off for vacation or personal reasons, bonuses, expenses that have been authorized and were incurred during employment, and contributions that were made on the employee's behalf. If this law is violated, employees need to understand what fringe benefits they were supposed to receive upon termination and what to do if the agreement is not followed through upon.

The employer is not legally permitted to withhold compensation that an employee is supposed to receive as a fringe benefit and was supposed to have been paid at the date of termination unless that withholding was part of the contract or a signed statement from the employee. The employee cannot have been intimidated or coerced into signing that agreement. The fringe benefits are to be paid upon termination at the regularly scheduled payday unless there are other specifications in the contract. The written contract or policy is paramount when fringe benefits are to be paid. Unused time will have to be paid if there is a pay-out provision in the employment contract. If it is not in the contract, the employer is not obligated to pay it.

In many situations, workers who have been terminated might not be aware that they are entitled to employment benefits upon dismissal. When there is a breach of contract in this way and fringe benefits are not paid, having assistance from a legal professional who specializes in employment law is imperative to pursuing a claim and getting what is owed. That is the first call that should be made by a dismissed employee who is not receiving fringe benefits from former employers.

Source: Michigan.gov, "Payment of Fringe Benefits at Termination," accessed on Dec. 15, 2015

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