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Can California Employers Owe Penalties for Late Paychecks?

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California Wage & Hour Attorney

What can I do if the Company doesn't pay me on time?

Or what can I do if the company doesn't pay me when my last paycheck?

These are common questions that I often hear. My name is Bill Turley and in this post, I answer these questions.

You may already know that California labor laws require most workers to be paid at least twice per month. State law also dictates that you should be paid on time and be paid the full amount that you are owed each payday. But what happens if your employer makes you wait for your paycheck?

California Workers Can Collect Penalties for Late Paychecks

Employers may have valid defenses in some cases where pay is late. For instance, if the employee failed to provide the employer with a correct address, the late payment is not the fault of the employer. There are also exceptions for employees who earn executive salaries or work on commission. For all other employees, the rules and penalties for late paychecks are as follows:

  • Regular pay. If your employer does not have a valid reason for withholding your pay, the company may be liable for a penalty of $100 for the first violation and an additional $200 penalty for each subsequent violation under Labor Code section 210. The employer may also be ordered to pay an additional 25% of the amount that has been withheld from you based on the circumstances. Even if the employee and employer disagree about the amount of wages that are owed, the employer must pay the full amount of undisputed wages on time to avoid penalties.
  • Overtime pay. Unlike regular pay, there is a grace period for the payment of overtime wages. If your overtime hours are not included in the paycheck for the period in which they were earned, they must be paid no later than the next regular paycheck.
  • Final paychecks. The penalties for failing to pay an employee his or her final paycheck are much steeper than those of regular paychecks. Also called waiting time penalties, these could amount to 30 full days of pay if the check is late. As a result, most companies issue a final paycheck to workers on their last day of employment or within three days of the employee’s final shift.

A quick example - the company owes Chuck a lot of money

Chuck works for a rental car company.  The company illegally calculated and paid the overtime rate on the bonuses and incentives to Chuck and the other wokers. Inculding the bonuses and incentives, Chuck averaged making $840 a week and he worked 5 days a week.

Chuck stopped working for the company. It is six months later and the company still hasn't paid Chuck. 

Based on these facts, the company owed Chuck to the unpaid overtime on the bonuses and incentives.  In addition, the rental car company owes Chuck for 30 days of waiting time penalties. Which is 30 days of wages.

$840 divided by 5 days = $168

$169 x 30 days = $5,040

Thus, the rental car company owes Chuck $5,040 in waiting time penalties.

This is just one example, you are also entitled to waiting time penalties if you don't receive legally compliant meal breaks, work off the clock or don't get paid overtime correctly.

I am known as one of California's leading wage theft lawyers

I am regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and California Assembly on wage theft and potential wage and hour legislation. 

Bill Turley Testifying on Wage Theft Legislation - California State Assembly


Believe it or not, I am known for telling the blunt, unfiltered truth. That is one of the main reasons why I am often asked to help draft proposed legsilation. My firm has offices in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Bakersfield. I expect to open an Inland Empire office soon.

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