California Paycheck Laws

Learn whether you are paid correctly under California law.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

California may be the most protective state when it comes to employee rights, including the right to be paid on time. California laws on paychecks and paydays cover when you must be paid, what information your employer must provide with your paycheck, when you must receive your final paycheck if you quit or are fired, and what that final paycheck must include.

California Payday Laws

Generally, California employees have the right to be paid at least twice a month. Compensation earned between the 1st and the 15th of the month must be paid no later than the 26th day of the same month. Compensation earned from the 16th of the month through the end of the month must be paid no later than the 10th day of the following month.

If an employer pays employees weekly, every two weeks, or twice a month according to a different earning schedule, it may comply with the payday laws by paying employees for work performed within seven days after the end of the pay period. For example, an employer that pays employees every two weeks is following the law as long as it pays employees within a week after each two-week payroll period closes.

Employers must designate paydays that meet the requirements above, and notify employees of the time, date, and place they will be paid.

Exceptions for Some Employees

The laws provide some exceptions for certain types of employees. For example, executive, administrative, and professional employees (as defined by California's overtime laws) may be paid only once a month, as long as they are paid by the 26th day of the month and their paychecks includes their entire salary for the month.

Employees who work for a farm labor contractor must be paid every week.

California Pay Stub Requirements

California law requires employers to give employees an itemized written statement with every paycheck. This statement, which can be in the form of a detachable pay stub or a separate document, must include the following information:

  • the total gross wages the employee earned during the pay period
  • the total hours the employee worked during the pay period
  • the number of units and rate for any piece-work the employee performed
  • all deductions from the employee's pay
  • the employee's net pay
  • the dates included in the pay period
  • the employee's name and the last four digits of the employee's Social Security number
  • the employer's full name and address, and
  • all hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the number of hours the employee worked at each rate.

Payroll Records Request

California employees are also entitled to examine their payroll records within 21 days of a request to an employer. You may also request a copy of your payroll records, although your employer may charge you for reasonable copying costs.

If your employer fails to give you access to your records, you may be owed a $750 penalty from your employer.

California Final Paycheck Law

If you are fired, laid off, or otherwise involuntarily separated from your job, you are entitled to your final paycheck immediately (that is, at the time of your firing or layoff). Your employer may not wait until the next scheduled payday or even the next calendar day to pay you what you are owed. And, your final paycheck must include all of your accrued, unused vacation time or PTO.

If you quit your job and give your employer less than 72 hours' notice, your employer must pay you within 72 hours. If you give your employer at least 72 hours' notice, you must be paid immediately on your last day of work. Like employees who are fired or laid off, your final paycheck must include all of your accrued, unused vacation time or PTO.

Penalties for Late Payments

To discourage employers from delaying final paychecks, California allows an employee to collect a "waiting time penalty" in the amount of his or her daily average wage for every day that the check is late, up to a maximum of 30 days. For example, if you typically earn $80 a day and your employer is ten days late with your check, you may be able to collect a penalty of $800.

Can I Sue My Employer for Paying Me Late in California?

If you quit or lost your job in California and your employer fails to pay you your wages in a timely manner, the best option is usually to file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner's Office.

Another, likely more expensive option is to file a lawsuit against your employer in court. Depending on the amount of money in question, you may be eligible to file your case in small claims court.

Contact an Attorney

If your employer refuses to pay you on time or issue your final paycheck, contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your legal options.

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