Under California employment law, all employers have a legal obligation to pay employees the entire amount of wages they’ve earned and to pay these wages on time. California employees are protected to the full extent due to the state’s expansive worker’s rights, which cover various aspects of wage distribution. It does not matter whether the employee quits or is fired or is a part of mass layoffs. Nor does it matter whether the employee is salaried or gets a daily wage or an hourly rate of pay. When you must be paid, what information must be provided with your paycheck, and wage and hour laws, are all covered by statutory laws.
So, can an employer pay you late under California law? The simple answer is no. California labor laws require most workers to be paid a minimum of twice per month. If your employer makes you wait for a paycheck, state law and federal law may subject the employer to instituted penalties that you’ll be entitled to collect.
Penalties for Late Paychecks
For California employers to be charged with a penalty, the state will first determine if the company or organization has a valid reason for the delayed payment. For example, if the employer isn’t technically at fault for the late payment, or if you failed to provide or incorrectly provided information that is necessary to get your check.
There are also exceptions applied for workers who earn commission, and for exempt employees -executive, administrative, and professional workers. But for everyone else, the rules dictate the following:
If an employer can’t justify withholding your pay, it will be charged for a penalty of $100 for an initial violation, and an additional $200 for subsequent violations in accordance with labor laws (California Labor Code Section 210). An employer may also be asked to pay additional fees on top of penalties in some situations. It’s important to note that even if there is a good faith dispute about the amount of wages owed in an employment relationship, the company is legally bound to pay the entire amount of an employee’s wages to the employee on the regular payday to avoid penalties for unpaid wages.
Employers are allotted a grace period for late overtime wages. A company won’t be penalized if overtime pay is paid no later than the date of your next regular paycheck.
If an employee quits with no less than a 72 hours’ notice time limit, the employer must pay the final check on the last day. If the employee does not give prior notice, then the final date of payment must be within the next 72 hours. Employers who are let go are entitled to the final check at the time of termination.
The majority of companies in California are adamant about issuing final wages to workers either on the last day of employment or within the last week of employment, whether in person or through direct deposit. This is because withholding an employee’s final paycheck warrants a very harsh repercussion known as a waiting time penalty under California’s final paycheck law. This penalty for a late final payday to former employees could potentially amount to two pay periods worth of wages.
The bottom line is, you have options when faced with a late paycheck. You have every right to seek damages. You may be able to file a complaint with the DLSE (California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ) or file a lawsuit against the employer. If your check is being illegally withheld from you and aren’t sure about your next steps, contact the California employment attorneys at Shouse Law Group today to discuss creating an attorney-client relationship. Our law firm is based in Los Angeles, but we have offices throughout the state.