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California has many laws regulating how employees must get paid and to ensure employers do not engage in any form of wage theft. One type of wage theft might occur after the employment relationship ends, as employers have guidelines for issuing a former employee’s final paycheck. This is true whether the employee was fired or left the company on their own

If you did not receive your final paycheck or your employer issued it late, you should discuss your options with a wage lawyer in California as soon as possible. 

Guidelines for Final Paychecks

The law requires an employer to comply with the following:

  1. Issue the final payment on the employee’s last workday if they were laid off or terminated.
  2. Issue the final payment within 72 hours of when the employee ended their employment without notice.
  3. Issue the paycheck on the employee’s final workday if the employee provided at least 72 hours’ notice.

If a company knows it’s going to let someone go, it should be prepared to settle up the final payment that same day. If an employee gives notice they are leaving, the company needs to provide payment within three days. The payment needs to be provided even if the employer and employee have a good faith dispute over the amount of the paycheck. 

What Should a Final Paycheck Cover?

The final paycheck needs to include all earned and unpaid wages, compensation for accrued and unused vacation time, and compensation for any additional paid time off accumulated. This payment should be provided by direct deposit or in person. 

Employers can make lawful deductions from the final check, including court-ordered deductions (such as for child support or judgments), taxes, or reimbursement for property an employee damaged due to gross negligence or stole from the employer.

What Happens if Your Final Wages Aren’t Paid?

Many employers do not comply with the time requirements for the final paycheck, whether it is intentional or not. If the employer was to blame for the delay – even if it was accidental – they can be penalized under the law. On the other hand, if another party was to blame, such as the employer’s bank, and the delay was beyond the employer’s control, there might not be a penalty. 

Either way, it is critical to ensure that you receive your final paycheck, so you should consult with an unpaid wage law firm as soon as possible if you did not receive the payment. There are different options, including filing a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or filing a lawsuit in civil court against your former employer. If successful, an employee should receive their final pay as well as one day’s wages for each day the payment was late (up to 30 days). 

Related reading: https://www.maralawfirm.com/when-to-call-attorney-unpaid-wages/

Speak with a California Unpaid Wages Attorney Today

At Mara Law Firm, we handle all types of unpaid wage claims, and we can assess whether your employer violated your rights under California law. Contact us for more information. 

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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