State law has been interpreted to require that employers make reasonable efforts to pay a deceased employee’s wages within the time periods specified by the state wage payment law (NY Labor Law Sec. 191).
Reasonable efforts should include contacting any emergency contact or next of kin identified in the employee’s personnel file; attempting to contact any known family or friends of the employee, if other than the emergency contact; contacting the Surrogate’s Court to determine whether estate or probate proceedings have been commenced and an estate administrator identified; reviewing obituary notices to locate the widow, widower, or other family member of the deceased employee; speaking with the funeral director handling the deceased’s funeral arrangements to either obtain contact information on the deceased’s family or to send a message to the family to be in contact with the employer; contacting insurers on company-sponsored life insurance to identify beneficiaries who can be contacted for estate information; or contacting the county health department or other entity that issues death certificates to find out the identity of the next of kin listed on the certificate.
In addition to these efforts, the employer may certainly undertake any additional efforts designed to identify an appropriate contact. If, after these efforts, the employer is 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 3 years in accordance with the New York State Abandoned Property Law (NYS DOL Counsel Opinion Letter, Deceased Employees, RO-10-016 (November 8, 2010).
Order of priority. The payment of wages owed following ...