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How Long Does an Employer Have to Pay Unpaid Wages?

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Feb 07, 2023 | 0 Comments

California's labor laws require employers to pay workers on time. Employers are also required under the law to pay wages - typically within 72 hours - to employees who resign or are terminated. When employers fail to meet these legal obligations, they are liable to pay a waiting time penalty that equal to the employee's daily rate of pay for each day they are late, for up to 30 days.

Laws relating to unpaid wages can be complex in California. If you believe your employer owes you unpaid wages, it might be in your best interest to contact an experienced unpaid wages lawyer in Los Angeles who can help fight for your rights and help you secure fair compensation for your losses.

Key Points - Table of Contents

When Are Employers Required to Pay You in California?

For a vast majority of employees in California, wages must be paid at least twice during each calendar month or on designated days in advance as regular paydays. Under state law, employers are required to notify employees specifying when they will get paid. Wages for any work that is done within the 15 days of the calendar month must be paid between the 16th and the 26th day of that month.

Any work performed between the 16th and last day of the calendar month must be paid between the 1st and 10th day of the following month. It is also important to note that if an employee works additional hours in excess of normal hours, they must be paid overtime wages no later than the specified payday for the next regular payroll.

However, employees who are considered "exempt," which include administrative or executive employees, may be subject to different payday requirements than hourly employees. Exempt workers are typically not subject to certain California wage and hour laws. Exempt workers are also known as "white-collar workers." These employees are usually paid once a month on or before the 26th day of the calendar month. Exempt employees typically receive an entire month's salary at once.

Unpaid Wages After an Employee Quits or is Terminated

When an employee quits his or her job or is terminated by the employer, that worker's final unpaid wages must be paid right away at the time of termination. This also includes those workers who are laid off. Unless the employee requests otherwise, this final paycheck should be given at the location of discharge. Also, employers shall not, under California law, put a condition on a final paycheck or make it contingent on an employee signing some type of agreement or waiver. Such an agreement is unenforceable under the law and may also subject the employer to penalties.

Should a worker quit without giving formal notice to the employer, the employer has 72 hours to make the final payment. However, if the employee provides at least 72 hours notice, the employer must issue the final paycheck on the employee's last workday. The final paycheck must include any unpaid wages and unused vacation or paid time off that is accrued. Some workers in certain industries such as those in the motion picture industry, oil drilling business, temp agency workers, etc. may have different final pay rules where they might not get the final paycheck when they are terminated from the job. An experienced Los Angeles employment attorney will be able to advise affected workers and help them better understand their rights and options.

Unpaid Wages Lawsuit

If you are owed unpaid wages, you may be able to file a lawsuit against to employer to recover those unpaid wages in addition to other damages. An employer who pays late wages or fails to provide a final paycheck on time may be in violation of wage and hour laws as well as other state and federal labor laws. Under California wage and hour laws, a worker or a group of workers may file an unpaid wage lawsuit or class action against their employer seeking damages for:

  • Unpaid wages
  • Unpaid overtime wages
  • Hours worked off the clock
  • Rest and meal periods that were not provided
  • Minimum wage requirements not met
  • Delayed payment of wages

Learn more about unpaid wage settlements here.

How Much Times Do Workers Have to File a Claim for Unpaid Wages?

Typically, you have three years from the most recent wage violation to file a claim and file an unpaid wage lawsuit. However, this timeframe could change if you unpaid wages claim stems from a breach of employment contract. In those scenarios, you may have only two years to bring a claim. It is important to understand that the time limits could vary depending on the type of wage violations. An experienced California employment lawyer can help determine how much time you have to bring a claim for unpaid wages.

Do You Need to Hire an Unpaid Wages Lawyer?

California law does not require employees to retain the services of an employment lawyer to file an unpaid wages claim. However, if you are looking to file an unpaid wages lawsuit or thinking about joining a class action lawsuit, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced LA wage and hour attorney. At Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers, we handle all types of unpaid wages claims and fight hard to protect the rights of employees in California. Call us today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


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