Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.
DEAR CARRIE: About a year ago I discovered three payroll checks totaling $1,200 that I had left in a book for about five years. I worked part-time then. I now work full-time for the same company that issued the checks. When I took the checks to the company administrator right after I discovered them, she said she would look into whether I could still cash them. She kept the checks and gave me copies. Well, she left the company without resolving the issue. About a month ago, I asked the new administrator to look into the matter but have heard nothing. The checks are now six years old. Am I entitled to that money? -- Dated Checks
DEAR DATED: File this one under lesson learned: Any check, especially a payroll check, should be cashed as soon as possible. Even still, you are entitled to that money because you worked for it. Here is what the state Labor Department says:
"If the funds were never deposited or cashed, the employer would still be obligated to pay the wages under labor law. However, as it is unlikely that a bank would still honor such dated checks, she should probably go back to the company to request replacement checks.
"She could also check with the employer to see if these funds have already been turned over to the state comptroller as abandoned property funds. She could also access the comptroller's website to see if her name appears on their list."
So keep pressuring the company to issue you new checks. But if your employer continues to drag its feet and the funds don't turn up on the comptroller's list, call the Labor Department at 516-794-8195 or 212-775-3880.
Click here to search for abandoned funds online at www.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/index.htm
DEAR CARRIE: I'm nearly 67 years old and will probably apply for Social Security benefits soon. Will I get the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment that took effect this year if I'm not collecting benefits yet? Or did I have to be on the rolls when the increase took effect? -- Increase for Newbies?
DEAR INCREASE: Sorry, but you are out of luck. That increase took effect last month and applies to people already receiving benefits.
"You can't get an increase on benefits you're not receiving," Social Security said.
But here's some good news for you. Since your full retirement age is 66 and you delayed your benefits to age 67, you are entitled to an 8 percent delayed-retirement credit, Social Security said. So if Social Security calculated your benefits at, say, $1,000 a month, that 8 percent credit would take that monthly amount up to $1,080. And if you are on the rolls when the next COLA increase takes effect, your raise will be calculated on that amount.
Link here to more on Social Security cost-of-living payments at www.ssa.gov/cola/2012/factsheet.htm
DEAR CARRIE: My daughter is an hourly part-time employee at a small company. She works about 25 hours a week. She doesn't receive any vacation or sick days. She doesn't even get paid for holidays when the company closes. Is this legal? -- Legally Short-Changed?
DEAR LEGALLY: It's legal. Labor laws don't require companies to offer employees any paid time off. Companies that offer those benefits are more likely to offer them to full-time employees.
And it's legal for the company not to pay your daughter when it closes for holidays because employers have to pay hourly employees only for the hours they work. This may seem unfair, but it's legal.