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Final Paycheck Laws for Terminated Employees in California

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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.

William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
I was laid off by my work on october 10th and have not received my final pay. I asked my supervisor and he directed me to a cooperate office. Not sure my legal rights thus far.
Posted by Michael Kern on October 12, 2018 at 01:38 AM
I Was fired on Tuesday IT is now Friday and I have only recieved a portion of my final check. The other portion will take 7 more days what can I do
Posted by Ricardo on September 28, 2018 at 10:08 PM
I work for San Bernardino County in California I was terminated on 8/22/2018 and they still owe me money and have not paid me yet do they owe me now for Waiting Time Penalties?
Posted by Jeremy on September 11, 2018 at 03:05 PM
I was terminated from my job at 6pm on Friday 083118. I was told they'd mail my final check. Today is the 4th and pay the 72 hour mark. Do I have a case?
Posted by Keith C Foster on September 4, 2018 at 03:44 PM
So i was fired today at 6:00am I've called all day they are now closed so i didn't get paid so tomarrow if they try and pay me do i make them only pay me for today or how many days can i make them pay me
Posted by Chad on August 6, 2018 at 09:06 PM

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