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What Does Your California Employer Have to Put On Your Pay Stub?

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Am I entitled to penalties for pay stub/ pay check violations under California wage law?

Am I entitled to penalties for paycheck stub/ pay stub violations under California wage law?

California has very stringent paycheck stub laws. There is very good reason behind these laws.  California’s  pay stub laws are intended to help workers figure out whether you are being paid all the wages that you are owed. 

Stated differently, they are intended to help you uncover wage theft. Analyzing your pay stubs is essential to figuring out that the company is stealing your wages.

It has been my experience that very few workers understand what is supposed to be on their pay stub and how to use the pay stub in order to determine whether their wages are being stolen.

In this article I lay out when you are entitled to money for California pay stub/ paycheck violations. Find out if you're owed money for pay stub/ paycheck violations under California law. 

Itemized Employee Wage Statement Provisions

Under California wage and hour laws, your employer has to place specific information on your pay stub/ wage statement. In essence, the pay stub has to inform you - the employee - concerning how you are being paid. You have to be able to look at the pay stub and determine how you are being paid.  That is California law.  


You may be entitled to up to $4,000 for California paycheck stub violations

The real world however, is far different. And guess what? If your employer does not comply with these requirements, you can recover up to $4,000 and your attorney fees and costs.  Is $4,000 a huge amount of money? No. But what we find is when we do a wage and hour audit of a California employer, these requirements are added to the total amount owed to our clients. And, you will see that the total owed, quickly adds up. I call it the joy of math. So will you.

In legal terms, these cases (or causes of action) are called: Failure to comply with itemized employee wage statement provisions. Or California Labor Code Section 226.


Pay stub violations under California wage laws

Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case

What is a California pay stub violation/ paycheck violation? (And am I entitled to money?) 

The Ten Things That Need To Be On Each Pay Stub

Your employer must provide you -  on each pay day an itemized statement of earnings and deductions which includes the following information:

  1. Your gross wages earned.
  2. The total hours worked by you.
  3. The number of piece-rate units earned by you and any applicable piece rate.  
  4. All deductions.
  5. Your net wages earned.
  6. The inclusive dates of the period for which you are being paid.
  7. Your name and the last 4 digits or your social security number.
  8. The name and address of your employer.
  9. All applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period.
  10. The number of hours worked at each hourly rate by you.

If all of this information is not on your pay stubs, then you may be entitled to up to $4,000. 

The purpose of requiring information on your pay stubs 

One of the purposes of Labor Code Section 226 is to help you determine whether your employer has compensated you properly (read: not stolen your wages)
The Legislature enacted section 226 to ensure an employer “documents the basis of the employee compensation payments” to assist the employee in determining whether he or she has been compensated properly. Gattuso v. Harte-Hanks Shoppers, Inc., 42 Cal. 4th 554, 574 (2007); Soto v. Motel 6 Operating, L.P., 4 Cal. App. 5th 385, 390-391 (2016).

This is the practical purpose of Labor Code Section 226. To help you make sure you are paid all the wages you’re owed. And if you not paid all the wages you are owed, to help you prove that your wages have been stolen.

In other words, to help you determine whether your employer (or ex-employer) is stealing your hard earned wages.

What you are going to see, based upon our experience is very few employers that pay under a piece rate follow California law. For example: Truck drivers that are paid by mileage, number of stops or by weight; or mechanics that are paid per job done. For hourly workers, many employer don’t list the total deductions.

How this plays out 

When companies don't list all of the wages owed on your pay stub - whether it be for not paying for all time worked, illegally shaving time off your time records, not paying meal period wage premiums, not paying rest period wage premiums, not paying all the overtime you are owed, failing to pay minimum wage and other wage violations; then you can compare your pay stub records, with your time records and/or the time that you work. This detailed analysis - in conjunction with knowing California wage law - is how you can determine whether you are owed unpaid wages. 


Bill Turley is regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and California State Assembly on wage law. 

Confidential, free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis

Do you want to find out if your employer (or ex-employer) owes you money for pay stub violations and/or if you're owed unpaid wages? 

Get your confidential, free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis. Get piece of mind. 


Two types of wage statement violations

Here is a good way to think about wage statement violations. There are two types of wage statements violations. Both are important. With both types, you may be able to recover for wage statement violations.

1) Information is not put on wage statement

Labor Code Section 226(a) requires information be placed on your wage statement. There are the pay statement requirements I just covered in the previous section.  This is what most people think when they they think of wage statement violations

2) Stolen wages that are not put on your wage statement

When your employer steals your wages, they are obviously not putting the stolen wages on your wage statements. This is a violation of Labor Code Section 226.  That is, failure to put all wages earned on your paycheck stubs.
Thus, every time your employer (or former employer) steals your wages - no matter how - it is a pay stub violation.
There are many, many ways that employers steal wages. It never ceases to amaze me when a finds new ways, or a new excuse for stolen wages.  Why? Because at Kevin O’Leary says in the television show Shark Tank, “We are talking about “MONEY.” 
For example, when the company doesn’t provide you with a legally compliant meal period or rest break - then you are owed an hour’s wage for the missed meal period.  Since under the Murphy Supreme Court case, you are owed the hour’s wage right then.
As the Supreme Court held in Murphy:

 Labor code Section 226.7(b) creates “an affirmative obligation on the employer to pay the employee one hour of pay. Under the amended version of section 226.7, an employee is entitled to the additional hour of pay immediately upon being forced to miss a rest or meal period. In that way, a payment owed pursuant to section 226.7 is akin to an employee's immediate entitlement to payment of wages or for overtime.”
Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal. 4th 1094, 1108 (2007).

Not putting wages owed for missed meal periods and rest periods on your pay stub is a violation

Thus, under Labor Code Section 226(a), your employer is obligated to put all wages earned on your paycheck stub. When they don’t put the wages owed for not providing a legally compliant meal period or rest break on your paycheck stub, it is a violation. Lubin v. The Wackenhut Corp., 5 Cal. App. 5th 926, 930 (2016).

Auto-deduct meal periods / Deduction for meal periods is a pay stub violation 

Similarly, when the company deducts the half hour for your meal break, when you didn’t receive a legally compliant meal period, then the company immediately owes you for the ½ hour when you were actually working. When the company doesn’t put the ½ hour on your paystub and doesn’t put all wages owed on the paystub - you have two separate violations of Labor Code Section 226(a). Failure to put a net wages owed on the pay stub and failure to put all hours worked on the pay stub.


Bill represented the workers in the landmark

California Supreme Court case -

 Brinker vs Superior Court

(Maybe the most important wage case

for the protection of workers)


Bill represented the workers in the 2012 groundbreaking California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court. Many people say that the Brinker case is the most important California Supreme Court wage and hour case in years (if not ever).

One of the worker protection concepts in the Brinker decision that keeps getting repeated again and again:

“When construing the California Labor Code, California courts are to adopt the construction that best gives effect to the purpose of the Legislature and Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC). The purpose of these laws is the protection of workers. In furtherance of that purpose, California courts are to liberally construe the Labor Code and Wage Orders to favor protection of workers.”


Knowing and Intentional

I suggest that you don't get caught up on this "knowing and intentional" part because a company is just about as able to get away with this "knowing and intentional" defense as you are to win the lottery this week. While, it's possible, it sure doesn't happen in the real world very often.

Labor Code Section 226(e)(1) states:
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.
 Lab Code Section 226(e)(1) (Emphasis added).
Please note that there is a requirement that the failure to put all of the required information on the pay stub be “knowing and intentional.”
While there have been a few Federal District Courts which have addressed this issue, as of the time of publication of this book, only one California Appellate Court has addressed this “knowing and intentional” standard.
The Kao court held, a violation exists if the employer knew that facts existed that brought its actions or omissions within the provisions of the statute.  Or, in other words, was aware of the factual predicate underlying  the violation.  Meaning, if the employer realizes that it’s paychecks don’t contain the required information, then it is knowing and  intentional.
An employer's knowledge that its wage statements did not contain the pay period's inclusive dates is  a knowing and intentional failure to comply with the statute. Kao v. Holiday, 12 Cal. App. 5th 947, 961 (2017).

Accidental omissions and a knowing and intentional failure

Accidental omissions, such as “an isolated and unintentional payroll error due to a clerical or inadvertent mistake.” may, apparently, be a defense based upon the knowing and intentional failure requirement of Labor Code Section 226.  Labor Code Section 226(e)(3). Kao v. Holiday, 12 Cal. App. 5th 947, 961-962 (2017).
For example, if the employer meant to include that information and believed they were including all the required information and their was a glitch with the printing and the information was omitted.

A mistake of law does is not a defense to the “knowing and intentional” part of Labor Code Section 226

In the Kao case, the employer treated (read: classified)  the employee as an exempt employee. In other words, the employer misclassified the employee as being exempt from overtime, meal breaks, and rest breaks. The Kao court held liability is established even if the employer believed, in good faith, that Kao was a nonemployee trainee outside wage statement requirements or an exempt employee with lesser wage statement requirements. Such a belief amounts to a mistake of law that is not excused under the statute mandating itemized wage statements. Kao v. Holiday, 12 Cal. App. 5th 947, 962 (2017). 

You don’t have to prove the company knew it’s pay stubs were illegal

Similarly, the Court In Manpower concluded that a "knowing and intentional" violation requires a showing that the defendant knew that facts existed that brought its actions or omissions within the provisions of section 226(a) — i.e., that Manpower knew that its wage statements did not contain the inclusive dates of the period for which its employees were paid, and knew that they did not contain Manpower's address. The employee is not required to demonstrate that Manpower knew that this conduct, if otherwise proven, was unlawful. Willner v. Manpower Inc., 35 F. Supp. 3d 1116, 1131 (2014).

Are you owed money wages for other California wage law violations? 



Representing workers all over California

Bill Turley has a State-wide practice. While his main office is in San Diego, Bill handles cases for workers all over California. 

Call us at 619-304-1000  - If you call after regular business hours, when you leave a message, be sure to repeat your name and telephone number twice, so we get it correctly. And be sure to indicate whether it's okay if we respond by text.

Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text.

Or leave us a message on this webpage.

Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
i worked for abprevious employera total of 29.5 hours frim jan 30 2019 thru feb 6 2019. i was given 40.00 cash twice in march then was told i was paid in full on may 13 when i was handedv200.00 cash at the bank parking lot. I figured my total gross earnibgs at 15.00 per hr to be roughly $442.00. I dont have a paystub or itemization to show where the remaining 162.00 was applied. back in february, i over heard s couple co workers discussing their concerns over prev time worked that they had not been paid for yet so i told the employer i would not work any more hours until i get my paycheck from jan 2019
Posted by jeanette brooks on May 28, 2019 at 03:17 PM
The ten thinks is very necessary for an employer when come to a pay status.
Posted by fake paycheck stub on November 20, 2013 at 05:05 PM

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