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Can I sue my employer if they don't pay me on time? Or take away my raise?

Vallejo, CA |

My current employer has recently emailed me saying I wont be getting paid on the time due to "circumstances we cannot control". They re saying they would be paying all employees 3 days later than the scheduled payday. Can I sue them for this? And in the past the same employer took my $.75 cents raise because I ate something I wasn't suppose to and found out about it from another employee before they told me. Can I sue them for that too?

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Attorney answers 2


It is unlawful for an employer to not pay employees on the designated day for payroll. You should contact the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and explain that your employer is not paying you on the regularly scheduled paydays. DLSE will assist you by explaining the law to your employer. Failure to pay wages in good funds on the regular designated payday is a misdemeanor pursuant to Labor Code Section 215. There are no specific penalties you can enforce against the employer, but you could, if you wanted to, bring a claim for interest on the late money.

You need to consider the wisdom of suing an employer who is so short on funds that it cannot make timely payroll.

The handwriting is on the walls. It looks like it is time to look for another job.

Good luck to you.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.



This is not the first time they were late on payroll. Can I claim interest on the late money from previous paychecks too?

Neil Pedersen

Neil Pedersen


Yes, as long as it is not too long ago.


To add to Mr. Pedersen's response:

The pay cut may have been another indication the employer does not have adequate funds to keep the business open.

However, it is legal for an employer to decrease an employee's pay for future work -- not for work already performed -- as long as the employee is still earning at least the minimum wage. An employer can cut an employee's pay for pretty much any reason it wants, or even for no reason. The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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