The Internal Revenue Service recommends keeping basic records that serve as proof of income such as pay statements for as long as they are needed, which can be several years. If you are no longer employed, you may need to show proof of your former income to apply for unemployment benefits or for other personal finance reasons. If you cannot find your last pay stub, you might be able to get it from your former employer.
In most states, employers must give employees a pay stub each time they are paid. If your last paycheck was via direct deposit and state law says you must receive a pay statement, your employer should have given or mailed you the statement. In some states, an employer is required only to give employee access to a pay stub. In this case, your employer does not have to give you a written or printed statement; access to an electronic pay stub is fine. Consult your state labor department about final paycheck and pay stub laws in your state. Whatever the procedure, your employer must follow it.
If your employer followed the state guidelines and gave you a pay stub that shows your final wages, it does not have to give you a second copy. However, you can request it. Call or e-mail the payroll person at your last job and make the request according to company policy. If you need it quickly for a specific purpose, politely explain this. If the pay stub is easily accessible, your employer might give you another copy promptly. However, if company policy dictates a waiting period, give your employer the stated lead time. Your employer might charge you a nominal administrative fee for the second copy, especially if it uses a third-party provider to process its payroll. In this case, it might have to contact the provider to issue the pay stub. You may contact your state labor department about the rules on charging such fees in your state.
The Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs most jobs in the United States, does not require employers to give employees a pay stub. Different federal laws might require pay stubs, such as the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act; agricultural employees must receive a wage statement each time they are paid. If the law does not require pay stubs, your employer does not have to give you one. As a convenience to employees, many employers choose give their workers a pay stub whether or not the law requires it.
If your last employer is required to give you a pay stub and failed to comply, politely request it. If your employer refuses, you may file a complaint with the state labor department. Pay stub violation penalties vary by state. For example, in California, an employer might be required to pay $50 for the first pay period that the violation happens, and $100 per employee for each pay period after the initial violation, up to a maximum of $4,000.
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.