December 1, 2022

PN’s ANONYMOUS LEGAL ADVICE HOTLINE: “My Worker Died! Can I Keep Their Paycheck?”


“My Worker Died! Can I Keep Their Paycheck?”

PN LAWYERS: “Legal Hotline, how can I help you?”

CALLER: “Yeah, uh, is this confidential? You know, like attorney-client?”

PN LAWYERS: “This is confidential, and you don’t have to tell me your name.”

CALLER: “Okay. I’m very upset. I have a shop and my guy, my worker, he, uh, passed, right? And he was supposed to get a paycheck tomorrow, but he’s not here and he lives alone.”

PN LAWYERS: “Yes. I’m very sorry…”

CALLER: “Yeah. So, can I just keep the money?”


What are a business owner’s obligations with respect to pay when their employee dies? Section 191 of the Labor Law requires you to make reasonable efforts to pay the deceased employee’s wages.

What are Reasonable Efforts?

  • Contact any emergency contact or next of kin identified in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Attempt to contact any known family or friends of the employee.
  • Contact the Surrogate’s Court to determine whether any information is available.
  • Review obituary notices to locate a family member of the deceased employee.
  • Speak with the funeral director handling the deceased’s funeral arrangements to either obtain contact information.
  • Contact insurers on company-sponsored life insurance to identify beneficiaries.
  • Contact the County Health Department or other entity that issues Death Certificates to find out the identity of the next of kin listed.

Then Can You Keep the Money?  Negative.

If, after those efforts, the employer is still unable to locate or contact the estate representative or next of kin of the employee, the employer must remit the funds to the Office of the State Comptroller after three years in accordance with the State Abandoned Property Law.

But the employer never gets to keep the money.

Email us at contact@pnlawyers.com or call 212.213.8511 for your legal services!

Joseph D. Nohavicka


With over 25 years of experience in the law, Joseph D. Nohavicka (Joe) is fully qualified to take on any kind of case at any given moment. Joe’s practice focuses on employment, commercial, insurance, ethics, criminal, and general appellate trial, and pre-trial litigation.

Joe is acknowledged in the profession for his performance in the courtroom, but he is also a prolific legal commentator with multiple publications in the prestigious New York Law Journal and the New York State Bar Journal.

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