July 24, 2019

An HR Cinderella Story: What To Do When Your New Hire Leaves Without Filling Out Their Paperwork

Jeweled high heel shoe next to a gold box labeled "hr cinderella story"

Unfortunately, this HR Cinderella story isn’t nearly as romantic as the original, though it is a much more common tale: Cinderella left before she filled out her new hire paperwork and you’re not sure how to process her one-and-only paycheck. 

Maybe she came in on her first day, left for lunch in a pumpkin carriage and never came back. 

Or maybe you asked her to come in for a working interview, but decided not to move forward with an offer of regular employment because all of her animal friends were causing chaos in the office. 

(For more information on the legal complexities surrounding working interviews, use the link below to download our free guide on the subject.) 

You are tempted to just cut Cinderella a business check without processing it through payroll, but that doesn’t feel right.  

Trust your instincts. 

The truth is that anytime anyone performs productive work for your company, she becomes your employee and should be properly paid for her time (unless she qualifies as an intern and has been designated as such).  

You probably know that you should have an I-9 and a W-4 on file for every employee, even if she only works a few minutes for your company. 

The I-9 is required by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, and it verifies that the employee is authorized to work in the United States. 

The W-4 is required by the IRS and is necessary to properly process payroll. 

Both of these forms should be filled out on the employee’s first day and are very important to have on file if you are ever audited.Click to download cedars Free Hiring Guide

How do you maintain compliance with the law when you don’t have the proper forms filled out?

Don’t worry. There is a solution, even if it’s not as pretty as a fairy-tale ending. 

Ultimately, it comes down to this: do the best you can with the limited information you have. While you may not have a glass slipper, you should have some other evidence of how to contact this employee. 

Check the employee’s resume for any contact information it might include, even if that’s just an emergency contact. Using whatever contact information you find, reach out to Cinderella and explain to her that you need her to fill out these two forms so that you can properly process her paycheck

Her motivation to get paid might be just the impetus needed to get the paperwork done. If she refuses to fill out the forms, then ask her a couple of questions to get the basic information needed to issue a check with the proper deductions. 

Make sure to document all of your efforts to contact Cinderella as you want to be able to show that you did your due diligence.

If none of that works, do a thorough search to see what, if any, additional information you already have on file for her. For example, check her background check authorization form for her social security number. Then, fill out the I-9 and the W-4 to the best of your ability and have her check issued with a standard deduction. If your payroll company won’t do this for you, ask them to report to you the proper amounts and hand-cut a check.

Keep in mind that, even if Cinderella does not respond to your requests for information, you are still required to compensate her for the time she worked and provide her with a paycheck by what would be her next regular payday. In some states, it’s even sooner than that.


The worst case scenario: Cinderella is not responding to your attempts to contact her and you do not have a physical address on file to send her check to.

Contact her one last time, ideally in writing. Let her know that her final paycheck is waiting for her at the office or you will send it to her immediately, if she provides your with a physical address. Remember to document all of your attempts to contact her and put them in her file.   

If you find yourself in this all too common HR predicament, do your best to comply with the law and document your efforts to do so.

Click to download our free guide, "Making Working Interviews Work."

HR tip of the day: Frequently, the HR Cinderella Story is a symptom of an inadequate or improper hiring process. Hiring (and keeping) the right employees is one of the most, if not the most, important thing you can do to run a successful business. Take some time to implement a thorough and compliant hiring process and you won’t find yourself in this predicament again. 

Bottom line: Don’t let anyone start working without first having them fill out these two pieces of paperwork.

This post was authored by CEDR Compliance Officer Nora Gustafson.


Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

Leave a Reply

Please note: CEDR Solutions specializes in providing expert HR support to owners and operators of independently owned medical and dental practices.