The California Labor Code covers the payment of wages to employees. The laws regarding this change depends on whether an employee is fired or leaves voluntarily.


In California, there is a strong public policy favoring full and prompt payment of wages due to an employee. The term “wages” includes all amounts for labor performed by employees of every description, whether the amount is fixed or based on time, task, piece, commission basis, or other calculation. “Wages” also include other benefits to which an employee is entitled as part of his/her compensation, including accrued vacation pay. Incentive compensation, such as bonuses or profit-sharing plans, are also part of your “wages”.


If any employee is terminated, any earned wages must be paid by the employer at the place of the employee’s discharge, presumably the workplace where the work was being performed.


When an employee is fired, the employer must immediately pay all compensation due and owing to that employee. A “discharge” includes not only a firing, but also a release of an employee upon completion of a specified job assignment (as in the case of a seasonal, winter employee working at a ski resort).


However, if an employee leaves voluntarily, or resigns, the employer has to pay all compensation due to the employee within 72 hours of the employee’s resignation. If the employee gives more than 72 hours’ notice of his or her resignation, the wages must be paid on the last day of the employee’s work.


If an employer fails to pay (without any deductions—employers are prohibited from making improper deductions from employee pay) the wages to an employee who quits or is fired, the employer is penalized by the amount of the employee’s daily wage, until the full amount of wages due is paid in full, but up to a maximum of 30 days. These unpaid wage penalties accrue on a daily basis, which means they accrue every day, not just on days that the employee would have or might have worked. For example, if you earn $10 per hour and typically work 7.5 hours per day, and your employer fails to pay you your final wages, your employer will be penalized at $75 per day, which will continue for a maximum of 30 days or until your wages are paid in full.


If your employer is not paying you and you are still employed, your employer is violating several provisions of California and federal laws, entitling you to penalties for non-payment. If you have been fired or have quit and your employer is withholding wages you have earned, this is also illegal. Call us to determine the full spectrum of violations you may have been subjected to as well as a full assessment of the amounts you can take back from your employer, including your attorneys’ fees and costs involved in recovering from your employer.