Can Employer Legally Deny Final Paycheck?

California is an at-will employment state, meaning employers do not need to give a reason to terminate employees and employees do not need a reason to quit. Wage laws, however, entitle all employees to final wages upon termination of employment. Labor Code sections 201 and 227.3 state that all employers must pay an employee’s final wages, including accrued unused vacation time, immediately upon termination. If an employer tries to deny your final paycheck, you may have a wage claim against the company with help of a California wages and hours attorney.

California Laws Surrounding Final Paychecks

California is notoriously protective of its employees in terms of labor laws. The state’s laws on paychecks protect workers’ rights by mandating employers pay them on time – including paying final checks after the employee quits or gets terminated. Section 201 of the California Labor Code states that upon discharging an employee, an employer must give the employee all wages earned immediately. If the employer lays off multiple employees due to seasonal employment that involves curing, canning or drying perishable food items, the employer must pay wages within a reasonable time, as long as it does not exceed 72 hours.

An employer that terminates a worker’s employment must immediately give that worker a check to cover all unpaid wages, unused vacation time, annual leave pay, holiday leave pay and time off. The employee may submit a written request to the employer within five days of his or her final day of employment to receive payment for all unused vacation, leave and time-off pay the next calendar year. The employee may then have the option of depositing all of this pay into a 401(k) or similar account depending on the circumstances.

Your employer must give you a check with all unpaid wages and accumulated time-off pay immediately upon giving you notice that he or she is terminating your employment. The employer may not wait until the next scheduled payday or even the next day to give you your final paycheck. The only exception is if you quit your job while giving your employer less than 72 hours’ notice, your employer has 72 hours to release your last paycheck. If your employer has at least 72 hours’ notice, the employer must pay you on your last day of work.

What to Do About a Denied Payment

If you quit your job or your employer fires you and you do not receive a final paycheck within the appropriate amount of time, you could have grounds to file a wage and hour claim against the employer. It is against the law for an employer to deny your final paycheck, regardless of the circumstances of you leaving the company, as well as to delay the payment of your final dues. If your employer denies your final paycheck, act immediately.

Gather information about your employment, paychecks and earned wages. Collect evidence such as paystubs and the notice you gave your employer of you quitting, if any. Print out all relevant correspondence between you and your employer. The more evidence you can collect of what you were making at the position, what your boss owed you in final dues and the termination of your employment, the better. Then, contact an attorney. An employment lawyer can help you demand final pay from your employer or take the company to court, if necessary, to obtain fair compensation.

Working Hours and Unpaid Wages

A successful wage claim could not only give you back pay for unpaid wages but also penalty payments. Your employer may have to pay you a waiting time penalty of your daily working wage multiplied by the number of days you had to wait for your final paycheck, up to 30 days maximum. If your employer fired you and you did not receive your final paycheck for 14 additional days, for example, you would be eligible for $1,680 in penalty payments if you made $120 per day. Contact a lawyer to help you bring a wage claim.