A person who works for any employer has a right to get their paycheck on time and in the correct amount. The obligation of employers to employees to pay them on time and in the amount earned is established in both California and federal labor law.

When Must Paychecks Be Sent Out?

Under California law, an employee should receive a paycheck at least semi-monthly. If the employee is a farm worker, the employer should pay them weekly. Professional or executive employees can agree to be paid once a month, but the paycheck must be given by the 26th of the month and include the entire month’s salary.

Can an Employer Withhold a Paycheck for Any Reason in California?

An employer cannot fail to issue a paycheck for wages or salary earned for any reason. An employer can withhold amounts of money from a paycheck for a variety of reasons, but withholding an entire paycheck is not allowed by law.

Can I Recover a Withheld Paycheck?

An employer is required to issue a paycheck to an employee and there is no justification in the law for withholding pay that has been validly earned.

If an employer fails to issue a paycheck to an employee as required by law, the employee can file a wage claim with the California State Department of Industrial relations. Information about the process of filing a wage claim and how it will be resolved is available online at the California state government website. An employee can also file a lawsuit against their employer in court.

What Happens If I Am Fired?

If a person is fired, they are entitled to receive their final paycheck immediately. An employer has 72 hours to provide a final paycheck to an employee who quits voluntarily. However, employees who gave more than 72 hours notice before quitting should receive their final paycheck immediately upon leaving their employment.

California is one of the few states that require an employer to reimburse an employee for any accrued vacation days. This applies to all employees, whether they have quit or been fired.

If your employer is late in giving an employee a final paycheck, they will be fined for every day that the paycheck is not issued for up to 30 days. The penalty for late issuance of a final paycheck is the amount of the employee’s daily wage. For example, if an employee made $100 per day, then the employer is fined $100 per day for every day that they fail to issue the final paycheck for up to 30 days.

Can My Paycheck Be Garnished?

If an employee owes money to another person or company for debts such as medical loans, then the person or company can sue the employee. If the person or company is successful in their lawsuit against the employee, they can ask the court to garnish the employee’s wages. This involves taking a court order for garnishment to the employer and asking the employer to take the money owed out of the employee’s paycheck and hand it over to the court or some intermediary agency, which then turns it over to the creditor of the employee.

For some debts there is no need for a court order. These debts include unpaid taxes, unpaid child support, or student loans that are in default, i.e., past due. For these debts garnishment can be started without a lawsuit and a court order.

An employer cannot deduct money from an employee’s paycheck for broken or damaged products or for tools used on the job under California law. In California, the law recognizes that accidents can happen during the course of performing a job and the cost of accidents and errors cannot be placed on the employee. An employer can only deduct money from an employee’s paycheck to cover the cost of damaged items, if they can show that the employee damaged the item on purpose. It can be difficult for an employer to show this, which is why they cannot automatically take the money from employee paychecks.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

California law also requires that every single paycheck include 10 items of information. The information the law requires includes the following:

  • The gross amount that the employee earned during the pay period;
  • The total hours worked except for salaried workers;
  • All deductions that have been taken from the gross pay;
  • The net wages earned after deductions are subtracted;
  • The employee’s name;
  • The last 4 digits of an employee’s social security number;
  • The days worked;
  • The name and address of the employer;
  • The amount of accrued leave;
  • All hourly rates that apply;
  • The hours worked,
  • If the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis, the number of piece-rate items created.

There are also a number of deductions that an employer can withhold from a paycheck. In addition to garnishments ordered by a court or garnishments for unpaid taxes, unpaid child support, or student loans, an employer may deduct amounts for the following;

Certain other deductions are expressly forbidden by law. They include:

  • Tips: An employer cannot deduct any amount from an employee’s wages because of tips left for the employee by a customer; the employer also cannot collect or take tips left for an employee;
  • Photographs: If an employer requires a photograph from an applicant or an employee, the employer must pay the cost of getting the photograph;
  • Uniforms: If an employer requires an employee to wear a uniform on the job, the employer must pay for it;
  • Medical exams: If an employer requires a pre-employment physical exam, then the employer must pay for it and cannot deduct the expense from the employee’s paycheck.

An employer is allowed by law to make the following deductions from an employee’s paycheck:

  • Deductions required by law, for example, tax withholdings;
  • Deductions expressly authorized by the employee in writing for insurance premiums, union dues, retirement contributions and the like;
  • Deductions authorized by collective bargaining agreements.

Also an employer can deduct money from an employee’s paycheck if the employee comes to work late. The deduction cannot be more than the proportionate wage that the employee would have earned during the time actually lost. However, for a loss of time less than 30 minutes, the employer can deduct a half-hour’s wage. For example, if you earn $12.00 per hour and come to work 40 minutes late, your employer can deduct $8.00 from your paycheck. And if you come to work five minutes late, your employer can deduct $6.00, which is half an hour’s pay.

Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?

You have a right to receive your paycheck, and if you have not, you should obtain legal representation. A California employment lawyer can be of great help to you in obtaining your unpaid wages. If you have not received your paycheck at all. Or if the paycheck does not reflect the amount of pay earned, you can obtain the money your employer owes you. If you think that deductions have been taken illegally or other withholdings are not justified, then you should consult an experienced California employment lawyer.

It is a good idea to keep a record yourself of the hours you have worked and the amount of pay you should receive.

Wage theft is illegal in California. If you think you have been the victim of wage theft, you should by all means consult with an experienced California employment lawyer for help in getting the pay you have earned.