An Employee Who Is Terminated Must Be Paid Immediately
An at will employee (i.e., an employee who has no written contract for a definite period) who is terminated by the employer is entitled to immediate payment of his or her wages. "If an employer discharges an employee, the wages earned and unpaid are due and payable immediately". California Labor Code A?201(a).
An Employee Who Quits Must Be Paid Within 72 Hours
An at will employee who quits is entitled to receive his or her wages within 72 hours. "If an employee not having a written contract for a definite term quits his or her employment, his or her wages shall become due and payable not later than 72 hours thereafter, unless the employee has given 72 hours previous notice of his or her intention to quit, in which case the employee is entitled to have his or her wages within 72 hours of the notice of quitting." California Labor Code A?202.
The Penalty For Not Paying An Employee When His Or Her Final Paycheck Is Due
Where an employer "willfully" fails to pay wages when due under the foregoing statutory provisions, "the wages of the employee shall continue as a penalty from the date thereof at the same rate until paid or until an action thereof is commenced; but the wages shall not continue for more than 30 days". California Labor Code A?203.
It is important to give an employee his or her final paycheck immediately if he or she is terminated, and within 72 hours if he or she quits. Failure to do so can result in harsh penalties, and will invite an expensive lawsuit.