Waiting Time Penalty for Final Wages in California

waiting time penalty final wages

California law states that when you end your employment relationship with an employer, they must pay your final wages immediately.

If they don’t, then there are remedies available to you against your old employer

. California workers should not have to wait days, weeks or months for their final paychecks.

If the employer is holding your final pay hostage for some reason, then you have a legal remedy. 

If you are having trouble getting your final pay, hire skilled wage loss lawyers to protect your rights.

Waiting Time Penalties in California

Under California’s Labor Code, §§ 201 and 202, when an employee is discharged or if the employee quits, their last paycheck must be paid to them within 72 hours.

A final paycheck must include wages for all hours worked, including overtime, and payment for all accrued, unused vacation time.⁠ 

If an employer willfully fails to comply with this law, they will have to pay a waiting time penalty.

The waiting time penalties in California involve the employee receiving an extra day of pay, based on their normal daily rate, for each day the wages remain unpaid, up to 30 days.

So if an employer fails to pay, they could wind up paying up to 30 more days of wages. You can file a lawsuit against your employer to force them to pay the owed wages plus the penalties.

Importantly, the waiting time penalty accrues on a daily basis for every day that the final wages are not paid, not just the days that the employee would have normally worked.

So even if the employee worked only Monday through Friday, the penalty would accrue on Saturdays and Sundays as well.

Exceptions to the Waiting Time Penalty

Waiting time penalties apply only to “wages” that are received by the employee. Under California’s law, wages can consist of the following:

  • A set salary;
  • Hourly wage;
  • Commissions;
  • Piece-rate payments;
  • Fixed rate per project;
  • Earned paid time off such as vacation time and sick time;
  • Vested retirement contributions; and
  • Value of fringe benefits and perks such as room and board, clothing allowances, vacation pay, sick pay, and meal allowances.

Therefore, the waiting time penalties for California could kick in for the non-payment of many types of wages and benefits that employees receive.

When Are Final Wages Due?

The time frame for the payment of the final wages depends on how the employment ended. If the employer fired the employee for any reason, then the wages are due on the date of the termination.

If the employee voluntarily quits and gives the employer at least 72 hours’ notice before their last day of employment, then the employer must make the final payment of wages on the employee’s last day of employment.

If the employee does not give notice of quitting but just quits one day without warning, then the employer has 72 hours from the last day of employment to issue payment.

Releases and Waivers

An employer is not allowed to force the employee to sign a release of legal claims or a waiver in exchange for the receipt of their final payment.

If the employee does sign some document under these conditions and circumstances, then the document is null and void under the law.

However, if the parties resolve a good-faith dispute, then the employer can require the employee to sign a release.

Ottinger Employment Lawyers Is Here to Help Win the Wages You Earned

If you believe that you have been cheated out of wages from a past job, you are not alone. Filing a claim for owed wages can be pretty complicated.

The California employment attorneys at Ottinger Employment Lawyers have been protecting the rights of our clients for over 20 years.

We can help you get your owed wages and the waiting time penalties allowed under the law. Please contact us online or call 866-435-5066 for help.

For details about our Los Angeles office, click here.

For details about our San Francisco office, click here.

Author Photo

Robert Ottinger, Esq.

Robert Ottinger is an employment attorney who focuses on representing executives and employees in employment disputes. Before starting his firm, Robert slugged it out in courtrooms trying cases for the government. Robert served as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles and then as Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office in Manhattan.

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