Paystub Violations in California

Under California employment law, an employer is required to provide specific information on an employee's pay stub, including hours worked, deductions, and pay rate. If an employer leaves out certain information or includes incorrect information, they may be in violation of California labor laws and subject to a statutory penalty.

Below, our California wage and hour lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about pay stub violations and employer penalties for workers in California:

Pay 20stub
Under California employment law, an employer is required to provide specific information on an employee’s pay stub, including hours worked, deductions, and pay rate.

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. What are California pay stub violations?

Employers in California are required to provide employees an itemized wage statement, also known as a pay stub. Employers are required to provide pay stubs semi-monthly or at the time of each payment of wages.1

Pay stubs are required even if an employee is paid in cash. However, most employers provide a wage statement that is a detachable part of the employee's paycheck or direct deposit statement.2

Pay stubs are required to include certain information about the employee, employer, rate of pay, and other information. If a wage statement does not include this information, no pay stub is provided, or the pay stub information is incorrect, the employer may be in violation of California labor laws.3

If an employer willfully fails to provide a wage statement or the employer fails to provide an accurate and complete wage statement, the employee may be able to seek damages from the employer for each violation.4

"Exempt employees" are employees who are exempt from California's wage and hour laws. However, in order to qualify as an exempt employee, an employee must meet specific duties requirements and earn a minimum salary equivalent to twice the state minimum wage based on a 40-hour workweek.3

Some non-exempt employees may also be paid a salary. Salaried non-exempt employees cannot be paid less than the state minimum wage. Salaried non-exempt employees are also protected by California wage and hour laws--including overtime laws and laws requiring meal and rest breaks.4

2. What information needs to be on my pay stub?

The information required to be provided in a pay stub or wage statement includes the following:

  1. Gross wages earned
  2. Total hours worked
  3. All deductions (all deductions made on written orders of the employee may be aggregated and shown as one item)
  4. Net wages earned
  5. The inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid
  6. The name of the employee
  7. The last four digits of the employee's social security number (or employee identification number other than a social security number)
  8. The name and address of the legal entity that is the employer
  9. All applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period, and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee5

If the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis, the wage statement is required to show the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate.6

If the employer is a temporary service employer, the rate of pay and total hours worked must be included for each temporary service assignment.7

3. What if my pay stub doesn't include “total hours worked”?

For most employees, a pay stub or wage statement must include the “total hours worked by the employee.” If an employee's pay stub does not include total hours worked, the employer may be in violation of California labor laws.8

However, employees who are exempt from overtime and minimum wage laws may be exempt from the requirement that their pay stub show “total hours worked.” This includes the following workers:

  • Employed in an executive capacity
  • Employed in an administrative capacity
  • Employed in a professional capacity
  • Outside salespersons
  • Salaried computer software professionals
  • Employees in a live-in alternative to incarceration rehab facility
  • Commercial fishing crew 9

The largest group of exempt employees are generally known as “white-collar” workers, or those employed in administrative, managerial, executive, or professional capacities.10

In order to qualify as an exempt executive, administrative, or professional employee in California, the employee must meet the following tests:

  1. Be primarily engaged in executive, administrative or professional duties (generally, this requires the employee dedicate about 50% or more of his or her work time to these duties);
  2. Regularly and customarily exercise discretion and independent judgment on the job; and
  3. Earn a salary equivalent to at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time work (based on a 40-hour workweek).11

If an employee meets the test for an exempt employee, they may be exempt from certain wage and hour laws, including the requirement that a pay stub indicate total hours worked.

4. What happens if there is missing or incorrect information on my pay stub?

If an employer has incorrect information on the wage statement or required information is missing, the employer may be in violation of California labor laws.12

California labor statutes give employees a cause of action against their employers for pay stub violations, providing for penalties, attorney's fees, and court costs. However, the law also allows employers to correct some errors to avoid penalties.13

5. Can I sue my employer for not following California pay stub laws?

An employee who suffers an injury as a result of an employer's intentional failure to comply with California pay stub laws is entitled to recover damages through filing a lawsuit against the employer.14

An employee is eligible for damages for the purposes of pay stub violation penalties if the employer:

  • Fails to provide a wage statement; or
  • Fails to provide accurate and complete wage statement information.15

In many cases, when an employer is violating California pay stub laws against one employee, they are violating labor laws against a number of employees. This may lead to a class action lawsuit involving multiple violations against employees.

The employee must be able to promptly and easily determine necessary information from the statement alone. This means that a reasonable person would be able to readily ascertain the information without referring to other documents or information.16 This information includes:

  • Amount of gross wages or net wages
  • Which deductions the employer made from gross wages to determine net wages
  • Name of the employer
  • Address of the employer
  • Name and address of the legal entity that secured the services of the employer if the employer is a farm labor contractor
  • Name of the employee
  • Last 4 digits of the employee's social security number or employee identification number17

Damages from a pay stub violation amount to $50 for the initial pay period and $100 per employee for each violation in a subsequent pay period. The maximum award available to an employee is $4,000.18

In addition to the pay stub violation penalties, an employee is also eligible to recover the court costs of bringing the lawsuit and reasonable attorney's fees.19

An employee can also sue their employer for injunctive relief. This means that the employee can force the employer to follow California pay stub requirements, in addition to seeking damages.20

6. Can an employer in California correct the pay stub errors?

Some pay stub violations can be corrected by an employer without having to pay penalties. A bill signed into law by Governor Brown gives employers a 33-day window to fix certain name and address violations and avoid the statutory penalties.21

This ability to fix pay stub violations is limited to errors in:

  • The inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid; and
  • the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer.

An employee who seeks damages for a pay stub violation files a claim under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).22

Once the employer is notified of the PAGA claim, the employer then has 33 calendar days to fix the error and avoid the statutory penalties. In order to “cure” the mistakes, the employer has to provide a fully compliant itemized wage statement for each pay period prior to the notice, going back three years.23

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For questions about California pay stub violations or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California labor and employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local employment law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(a) An employer, semimonthly or at the time of each payment of wages, shall furnish to his or her employee, either as a detachable part of the check, draft, or voucher paying the employee's wages, or separately if wages are paid by personal check or cash, an accurate itemized statement in writing showing (1) gross wages earned, (2) total hours worked by the employee, except as provided in subdivision (j), (3) the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis, (4) all deductions, provided that all deductions made on written orders of the employee may be aggregated and shown as one item, (5) net wages earned, (6) the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid, (7) the name of the employee and only the last four digits of his or her social security number or an employee identification number other than a social security number, (8) the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer and, if the employer is a farm labor contractor, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 1682, the name and address of the legal entity that secured the services of the employer, and (9) all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee and, beginning July 1, 2013, if the employer is a temporary services employer as defined in Section 201.3, the rate of pay and the total hours worked for each temporary services assignment. The deductions made from payment of wages shall be recorded in ink or other indelible form, properly dated, showing the month, day, and year, and a copy of the statement and the record of the deductions shall be kept on file by the employer for at least three years at the place of employment or at a central location within the State of California. For purposes of this subdivision, “copy” includes a duplicate of the itemized statement provided to an employee or a computer-generated record that accurately shows all of the information required by this subdivision.”)
  2. Same.
  3. Same.
  4. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(e)(2)(A) An employee is deemed to suffer injury for purposes of this subdivision if the employer fails to provide a wage statement. (B) An employee is deemed to suffer injury for purposes of this subdivision if the employer fails to provide accurate and complete information.”)
  5. Labor Code 226(a) LC, see headnote 1 above.
  6. Labor Code 226(a) LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(3) the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis.”)
  7. Labor Code 226(a) LC, see headnote 1 above.
  8. Labor Code 226(a)(2) LC, see headnote 1 above.
  9. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(j) An itemized wage statement furnished by an employer pursuant to subdivision (a) shall not be required to show total hours worked by the employee if any of the following apply: (1) The employee's compensation is solely based on salary and the employee is exempt from payment of overtime under subdivision (a) of Section 515 or any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission. (2) The employee is exempt from the payment of minimum wage and overtime under any of the following: (A) The exemption for persons employed in an executive, administrative, or professional capacity provided in any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission. (B) The exemption for outside salespersons provided in any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission. (C) The overtime exemption for computer software professionals paid on a salaried basis provided in Section 515.5. (D) The exemption for individuals who are the parent, spouse, child, or legally adopted child of the employer provided in any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission. (E) The exemption for participants, director, and staff of a live-in alternative to incarceration rehabilitation program with special focus on substance abusers provided in Section 8002 of the Penal Code. (F) The exemption for any crew member employed on a commercial passenger fishing boat licensed pursuant to Article 5 (commencing with Section 7920) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 6 of the Fish and Game Code provided in any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission. (G) The exemption for any individual participating in a national service program provided in any applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission.”)
  10. 8 California Code of Regulations ("C.C.R.") 11040(1)(A). ("1. Applicability of Order This order shall apply to all persons employed in professional, technical, clerical, mechanical, and similar occupations whether paid on a time, piece rate, commission, or other basis, except that: (A) Provisions of sections 3 through 12 shall not apply to persons employed in administrative, executive, or professional capacities.")
  11. Labor Code 515 LC -- Exemptions from wage/hour laws. ("(a) The Industrial Welfare Commission may establish exemptions from the requirement that an overtime rate of compensation be paid pursuant to Sections 510 and 511 for executive, administrative, and professional employees, if the employee is primarily engaged in the duties that meet the test of the exemption, customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment in performing those duties, and earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. The commission shall conduct a review of the duties that meet the test of the exemption. The commission may, based upon this review, convene a public hearing to adopt or modify regulations at that hearing pertaining to duties that meet the test of the exemption without convening wage boards. Any hearing conducted pursuant to this subdivision shall be concluded not later than July 1, 2000.")
  12. Labor Code 226(a) LC, see headnote 1 above.
  13. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(e)(1) An employee suffering injury as a result of a knowing and intentional failure by an employer to comply with subdivision (a) is entitled to recover the greater of all actual damages or fifty dollars ($50) for the initial pay period in which a violation occurs and one hundred dollars ($100) per employee for each violation in a subsequent pay period, not to exceed an aggregate penalty of four thousand dollars ($4,000), and is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees.”)
  14. Same.
  15. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(e)(2)(A) An employee is deemed to suffer injury for purposes of this subdivision if the employer fails to provide a wage statement. (B) An employee is deemed to suffer injury for purposes of this subdivision if the employer fails to provide accurate and complete information as required by any one or more of items (1) to (9), inclusive, of subdivision (a) and the employee cannot promptly and easily determine from the wage statement alone one or more of the following: (i) The amount of the gross wages or net wages paid to the employee during the pay period or any of the other information required to be provided on the itemized wage statement pursuant to items (2) to (4), inclusive, (6), and (9) of subdivision (a). (ii) Which deductions the employer made from gross wages to determine the net wages paid to the employee during the pay period. Nothing in this subdivision alters the ability of the employer to aggregate deductions consistent with the requirements of item (4) of subdivision (a). (iii) The name and address of the employer and, if the employer is a farm labor contractor, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 1682, the name and address of the legal entity that secured the services of the employer during the pay period. (iv) The name of the employee and only the last four digits of his or her social security number or an employee identification number other than a social security number.”)
  16. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(e)(2)(C) For purposes of this paragraph, “promptly and easily determine” means a reasonable person would be able to readily ascertain the information without reference to other documents or information.”)
  17. Labor Code 226(e)(2) LC, see headnote 15 above.
  18. Labor Code 226(e)(1) LC, see headnote 13 above.
  19. Same.
  20. Labor Code 226 LC -- Payment of Wages. (“(h) An employee may also bring an action for injunctive relief to ensure compliance with this section, and is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees.”)
  21. Labor Code 2699 LC -- Private Attorneys General Act. ("(d) For purposes of this part, “cure” means that the employer abates each violation alleged by any aggrieved employee, the employer is in compliance with the underlying statutes as specified in the notice required by this part, and any aggrieved employee is made whole. A violation of paragraph (6) or (8) of subdivision (a) of Section 226 shall only be considered cured upon a showing that the employer has provided a fully compliant, itemized wage statement to each aggrieved employee for each pay period for the three-year period prior to the date of the written notice sent pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (c) of Section 2699.3.”)
  22. Labor Code 2699.3 LC -- Private Attorneys General Act. (“(a) A civil action by an aggrieved employee pursuant to subdivision (a) or (f) of Section 2699 alleging a violation of any provision listed in Section 2699.5 shall commence only after the following requirements have been met: (1) (A) The aggrieved employee or representative shall give written notice by online filing with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and by certified mail to the employer of the specific provisions of this code alleged to have been violated, including the facts and theories to support the alleged violation. (B) A notice filed with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency pursuant to subparagraph (A) and any employer response to that notice shall be accompanied by a filing fee of seventy-five dollars ($75). The fees required by this subparagraph are subject to waiver in accordance with the requirements of Sections 68632 and 68633 of the Government Code. (C) The fees paid pursuant to subparagraph (B) shall be paid into the Labor and Workforce Development Fund and used for the purposes specified in subdivision (j) of Section 2699.”)
  23. Labor Code 2699.3 LC -- Private Attorneys General Act. (“(c)(2)(A) The employer may cure the alleged violation within 33 calendar days of the postmark date of the notice sent by the aggrieved employee or representative. The employer shall give written notice within that period of time by certified mail to the aggrieved employee or representative and by online filing with the agency if the alleged violation is cured, including a description of actions taken, and no civil action pursuant to Section 2699 may commence. If the alleged violation is not cured within the 33-day period, the employee may commence a civil action pursuant to Section 2699.”)

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