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What to Do When Your California Employer Doesn’t Pay You on Time

All employers in the State of California have a legal obligation to pay their employees the entire amount of wages owed for the time that they have worked and pay these wages in a timely manner. California employment laws and Labor Code protects worker’s rights to compensation, which includes the timeliness of wage distribution. When an employee and employer enter a contract for employment, this binding agreement requires an employer to pay the worker wages according to that contract.

Both state and federal laws govern what an employee must be paid, what information must be provided with a paycheck, and when the employee must be paid. Employers in California are not allowed to pay their employees late, and if they do so, they may face legal consequences. Find out how what to do when your employer does not pay you on time below.

Determining Timelines – In order to decide if an employer is late in their wage payments, a determination must first be made by the state when the company is required to make the payments and if the company has any valid reasons to be late. For example, if an employee failed to provide the correct information such as a bank account number, to receive a direct deposit, that will not be the employer’s fault if your check is late.

Most employers in California must be paid a minimum of twice a month. The paydays of every employee must be established prior to their first paycheck. If the employee is paid on an alternative work schedule, then the employer must pay the worker’s wages no later than 7 days after the pay period.

Different Penalties For Different PayThere are three types of pay given by an employer: regular pay, overtime, and final paychecks. If an employer is late on any types of these payments to an employee, the consequences differ.

  • Regular Pay – If an employer has no justifiable reason to withhold pay from an employee, the state of California indicates that there is a $100 penalty per day for the initial violation and $200 a day for any subsequent violations. Additional fees may be imposed on the employer. Also, even if you and your employer are in dispute regarding the amount of compensation you are owed, they still have a legal responsibility to pay you in a timely manner, otherwise, they will owe penalties.
  • Overtime Pay – Employers are offered more of a grace period with respect to overtime pay. If the overtime pay is not paid by the date of the following paycheck, they will not be considered officially late.
  • Final Paycheck – If you have terminated your employment with a company for any reason, the State of California states that the employer must provide you with a final paycheck on the last day of employment or within the last week of your employment if you have provided notice.
  • Vacation Pay – California law considers vacation pay to be wages. While employers are not required to provide vacation pay to their employees if they do the employee is entitled to wages for any unused vacation time that vested at the time that the employee’s work ends. Additionally, when an employee terminates their employment, they are entitled to be paid for any unused vacation pay that was earned.

Your Next Steps

You may choose to continue to work for your employer even though they have not paid you your wages in a timely manner. The decision to do so is a personal one, however, you always have the right to pursue any penalties regarding your delinquent wages.

If your employer has withheld regular wages, they may face the penalties listed above, which typically are payable directly to the State of California. However, as an employee, you may be able to recover up to 25% of these penalty amounts by filing a lawsuit under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). To obtain these penalty amounts, you must file a PAGA claim against your employer and follow specific guidelines established by the Labor Code (Sections 2698 – 2699.5). If you win your claim, you may be awarded 25% of the penalties owed to the state, plus any reasonable attorney fees.   As a PAGA representative, you advance the claims on behalf of yourself and your fellow employees.  If you are interested in pursuing such a claim, it is best to consult an experienced California employment lawyer. 

If your employer has failed to issue you a final paycheck in a timely manner, you have the right to seek damages regarding your final wages. An employer in California must provide the final paycheck either on the last day or within 72 hours after the employee’s last day. All unused or accrued vacation time, as well as any other paid time off, must be included in this final paycheck. If your employer has not paid you a final paycheck, they may face the following penalties:

  • If an employee works 40 hours a week, the waiting time penalty is 8 times the hourly rate of the employee. Therefore, if an employee makes $20 an hour, the employee would be entitled to $160 for every day the employer is late with their final paycheck.
  • If an employee works part-time, the penalty is calculated upon the employee’s day’s work and will vary according to differing calculations.
  • You can only receive a penalty based on overtime work, if it is regularly scheduled.

It is important to note that even if you receive your final paycheck late, you may still be entitled to a waiting time penalty if you do not receive all your compensation on time.

Contact V. James DeSimone Law

Your choices if you are facing an employer who has not paid your wages in a timely manner are to attempt to resolve the dispute directly with the employer, bring an administrative wage claim in California, or file a lawsuit regarding the unpaid wages and pursue penalties. Facing the challenge of an employer who has not paid you in a timely manner can be overwhelming and involve complex state laws and calculations. Contact V. James DeSimone Law at 310-693-5561 and visit with one of our experienced attorneys today regarding your legal rights if your employer has not paid your wages, overtime, or final paycheck in a timely manner.

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