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Guide To California Final Paycheck Laws


If you’ve recently left your job in California and haven’t been paid what you’re owed, you should know that the state has laws to protect your rights. The final paycheck law in California ensures that employees receive their due pay within 72 hours after leaving a job. If your former employer delays or doesn’t pay you as required, you could be eligible for extra compensation.

In line with California’s wrongful termination laws, the state’s final paycheck statute shows a commitment to fair treatment of employees. Learn more about California’s final paycheck law and how an employment law attorney can help if your former employer fails to follow the statute after you leave your position.

What is the California Law for Final Paychecks?

The California Labor Code outlines the essential rules regarding final paychecks and the employer’s obligations. These include the following for various scenarios:

  • You were fired from your job. If you are fired or laid off, CA Labor Code Section 201 states that all unpaid wages and expenses are due immediately. Your employer must pay your remaining salary on the day you are fired.
  • You left your job with enough notice. If you provided at least 72 hours of notice before quitting your job, Section 202 of the CA Labor Code requires your employer to pay your final paycheck on the last day of work.
  • You left your job without enough notice. If you did not provide at least 72 hours of notice before leaving your job, Section 202 gives employers 72 hours to issue your final paycheck.

How Long Does an Employer Have to Pay You After Payday in California?

The California Labor Code requires employers to pay their employees at least twice a month on designated days. Employers must post the payment date, time, and location in advance. For occupations with a weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly payroll period, employers must pay within seven days of the end of each designated payroll period.

For example, you work at a company in California that pays every two weeks. The law states that your employer must set and tell you the exact paydays, like the 15th and the last day of each month.

So, if you work from the 1st to the 15th, you get paid on the 15th. For work from the 16th to the end of the month, you get your pay on the last day of that month. Your employer must also clearly post when and where you’ll get paid.

What is the Waiting Time Penalty for the Final Paycheck in California?

Under California’s final paycheck laws, employers may face a costly waiting time penalty if they fail to adhere to the final paycheck rule. This means the employer must pay the employee regular daily wages for each day the paycheck is delayed, up to a maximum of 30 days.

This penalty is calculated based on the employee’s average daily wage and can include any overtime pay you are owed. It accrues from the due date of your final paycheck and applies regardless of whether you were fired or voluntarily left your job.

For instance, you’re working in California and earn $200 daily. If you’re let go, the law says you should get your final paycheck immediately, but your employer delays payment. Under the waiting time penalty, you’re owed an extra $200 every day your paycheck is late. So, a 10-day delay means you’d be entitled to an additional $2,000.

If your employer fails to pay you on time or refuses to pay the waiting time penalty, you may need to file a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office. You can also seek legal advice from a wage claims lawyer to recover these penalties and any unpaid wages.

When Can Your Employer Withhold Part of Your Final Check?

Under certain circumstances, your employer may make deductions from your final paycheck. These scenarios include:

  • Legally required deductions. Employers may withhold part of your final paycheck for taxes, Social Security withholding, or due to a court order.
  • Employer-authorized deductions. Paycheck withholdings may include contributions to a health insurance plan, a 401(k), or any other plan in your employment contract.
  • Advances and loans. Employers can deduct advances or loans with written authorization specifying the amount for each pay period. However, they cannot make a large, one-time deduction (balloon payment) from the final paycheck to recover the entire balance unless you sign a new, valid agreement authorizing this at or before termination.
  • Damage to company property. Employers may deduct repair or replacement costs from your final paycheck for property you damaged before your termination. However, the damage must result from an intentional act or gross negligence.

Protect Your Right to Fair Pay in California

If you’re dealing with a delayed or incomplete final paycheck in California, take action to protect your rights. The state’s labor laws offer multiple protections and avenues for holding irresponsible employers liable for financial harm done to employees.

File a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office to hold your employer accountable and consult an attorney for help getting the compensation you deserve.


Can my employer deduct money from my final paycheck in California?

Your employer can deduct legally required items like taxes and Social Security from your final paycheck. They can also deduct for health insurance or 401(k) if these are part of your employment contract. However, deductions for loans or property damage must follow specific legal guidelines.

How can I receive my final paycheck in California?

You can get your final paycheck in several ways: by check or cash in person, via direct deposit, on a payroll card, or by mail if you request it. If you choose mail, you are responsible for providing the correct address. The paycheck is considered sent on the mailing date, which means you may receive it more than three days after leaving your job.

How do I file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office?

To claim unpaid wages in California, file with the Labor Commissioner’s Office online, by email, mail, or in person. Include detailed information such as pay stubs and work hours. The process typically begins with a settlement conference, which may proceed to an official hearing. The filing deadline varies from one to four years, depending on the claim. For step-by-step instructions and to initiate your claim, visit the Labor Commissioner’s Office website.


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