Written by attorney Jacob Iraj Kiani | Aug 20, 2013

What are the California Final Pay Rules for the Timing of Final Paychecks?

Basic Guide to What Is Required for Compliance with the California Final Pay Rules

The time requirement for a final paycheck depends on whether the employee:

  • quit without notice;
  • quit with at least 72 hours notice; or
  • was terminated or laid off.

Employee Was Terminated or Laid Off

If an employer terminates an employee in California or lays him or her off with no specific return date within the normal pay period, all wages and accrued vacation earned but unpaid are due and payable immediately.

It is not acceptable to ask or require an employee to wait until the next regular pay day for his or her final wages. An employer in California may not withhold a final paycheck. It is illegal to withhold the final paycheck to induce the former employee to:

  • Return tools, uniforms, pagers, laptop computers, keys or any other items belonging to the employer;
  • Pay back money that maybe owed to the employer; or
  • Turn in expense reimbursement forms.

The California Labor Code requires that employees receive all earned and unpaid wages at the time of discharge from employment. If not, the employer may be assessed waiting time penalties. The California Supreme Court has ruled that neither length of employment or the reason for termination changes this requirement. Employees service to an employer is completed either by completion of the hired for task or at termination by the employer. Both constitute a discharge as defined by law. The discharge does not require an in voluntary termination from an ongoing employment relationship. An employee hired to perform one day of service must be paid at the end of that day.

Voluntary Quit: More than 72 Hours Notice

In the event of a voluntary quit, i.e. the employee voluntarily resigns from his or her position, the time for final payment of wages depends on the amount of notice that the resigning employee provides his or her employer. All wages and accrued vacation earned but unpaid for an employee who quits with more than 72 hours notice to his or her employer are due and payable on the last day of work.

Voluntary Quit: Less than 72 Hours Notice

All wages and accrued vacation on the unpaid for an employee quits with less than 72 hours notice to his or her employer are due and payable not later than 72 hours after notice is given. An employee who gives less than 72 hours notice is entitled to receive his or her final wage payment by mail if he or she so requests and designates a mailing address.

Additional resources provided by the author

Wage and Hour Law Glossary of Wage and Hour Terms Overtime Law FAQ Link to Overtime Law sections of CA Labor Code Which Wage Order? Index of Businesses and Occupations for Wage Order Classifications Waiting Time Penalties FAQ Deductions from Wages FAQ Minimum Wage FAQ Pay Periods and Final Wages FAQ Reporting Time Pay FAQ Tips and Gratuities FAQ Employee Handbook Resources Top Five Social Media / Internet Use Policies for an Employee Handbook Free HR Downloads Basic Employee Handbook Download Five Key Workplace Policies Every Employer Should Know Free Discipline Policy Free Non-Discrimination Policy Free Employee Handbook Acknowledgment Form Free Termination Procedures Guide Human Resources Law - General CalChamber HR California Useful Table of Which HR Laws Apply to California Employers Link to Free New Hire Forms Paid Family Leave Poster Social Security Number Verification Service Sample Technology and Cell Phone Policy Paid Family Leave Brochure Unbundled Legal Services Unbundled Legal Services Legal Document Review Service Legal Advice by Telephone Attorney Prepared Online Legal Documents Legal & Court Coaching Service Meal and Rest Period Law Meal Period and Rest Break Basics Free Human Resources Forms Free California Human Resources Downloads

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