Final Paycheck Laws for Terminated Employees in California
When you leave your employment, under California law you have the right to collect all of the wages owed by the company as quickly as possible. Under California law, the company must pay you either immediately (if you are fired and/or give notice) or within 72 hours.
If not, the company may have to pay you 30 days wages. Which can really add up fast.
These are called "waiting time penalties. In this article, I discuss final paycheck laws for terminated employees in California.
Waiting Time Penalties and Employer Responsibilities After an Employee Leaves
The length of time a California employer has to provide employees with their final paychecks depends on whether you quit or were fired. If the employer does not meet the deadline, you are entitled to a waiting time penalty equal to a full day's pay for each day the paycheck is late, up to a total of 30 days. Workers have a right to collect these waiting time penalties no matter what the terms of their separation from the company.
Under California final paycheck laws, an employer has the following responsibilities to:
Fired or laid off employees:
An employee who is involuntarily separated from his or her job must be given a final paycheck at the time of termination.
Employees who quit:
If an employee voluntarily leaves a company without giving the employer prior notice, the employer has 72 hours to provide the worker with his final paycheck. If an employee gives at least 72 hours' notice before quitting, the employee should be given his final paycheck on his last day at work.
Provide total pay:
Not only do California employers have to provide final wages in a timely manner, they also have a duty to pay the full amount of wages owed. The full amount of wages should include any accrued paid time off, unused vacation days, and regularly scheduled overtime. If an employer splits your final paycheck into separate payments, you may still be owed a waiting time penalty for the days you waited for the total amount to be paid.
If you were kept waiting for your final paycheck or were not paid in full, you may be able to take action against your employer.
It Can Add Up Really Fast
Here is a quick example. John averaged making $245 a day while driving for a delivery company. The company automatically deducted him meal periods when in reality, he was working during meal periods. Thus, when he quit, the company still owed him for the 1/2 hour each day for the meal periods that were illegally deducted and he was owed an hour's pay for every missed meal period and rest period.
Thus, just in waiting time penalties, John was owed as follows:
$245 x 30 days = $7,350
I call it the joy of math. Not that it's a joy to have your wages stolen. But it is a joy when I get you your stolen wages back.
Of course, this isn't a guarantee of what you will get in your case. But is for illustrative purposes to demonstrate what you may be entitled to under California law. As I tell people, the only thing that is guaranteed in life is death, taxes and the company is going to hire shark lawyers that will come up with a couple of dozen or so reasons (the law calls them "defenses") of why you shouldn't get money in your case. Happens all the time. I call 'em, the Devil's Advocates.