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Labor Code Sections 201-203: Employer Must Pay All Wages Due at Termination/Resignation or Pay Penalties!

On Behalf of | May 28, 2012 | Employment and Labor Law

California Labor Code section 201(a) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

“(a)   If an employer discharges an employee, the wages earned and unpaid at the time of discharge are due and payable immediately.”

California Labor Code section 202(a) then provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

 “(a)  If an employee not having a written contract for a definite period quits his or her employment, his or her wages shall become due and payable not later than 72 hours thereafter, unless the employee has given 72 hours previous notice of his or her intention to quit, in which case the employee is entitled to his or her wages at the time of quitting. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an employee who quits without providing a 72-hour notice shall be entitled to receive payment by mail if he or she so requests and designates a mailing address. The date of the mailing shall constitute the date of payment for purposes of the requirement to provide payment within 72 hours of the notice of quitting.”

Together these statutes set forth strict requirements for your employer.  If you are terminated, they must pay you all wages you are owed that day.  If you quit, they must pay you within 72 hours.  Moreover, if you give them at least 72 hours notice of your resignation, they must pay you on your last day.  If you quit without receiving immediate payment, the employer must mail the final pay to you within 72 hours.

So what happens if the employer fails to meet these obligations?  California Labor Code section 203 provides for a penalty equal to one day of wages at your standard hourly rate for each day the employer falls beyond the deadline, up to a maximum of thirty days.  These are known as “waiting-time” penalties, and they can often exceed the amount the you were owed in the first place.

California Labor Code section 203 states:

“(a) If an employer willfully fails to pay, without abatement or reduction, in accordance with Sections 201, 201.3, 201.5, 202, and 205.5, any wages of an employee who is discharged or who quits, the wages of the employee shall continue as a penalty from the due date thereof at the same rate until paid or until an action therefor is commenced; but the wages shall not continue for more than 30 days. An employee who secretes or absents himself or herself to avoid payment to him or her, or who refuses to receive the payment when fully tendered to him or her, including any penalty then accrued under this section, is not entitled to any benefit under this section for the time during which he or she so avoids payment.”

Note, finally, that you must make yourself available for and accept the payment when it is tendered to reap the benefit of these waiting-time penalties, as the statutes says you may not “secret” or “absent” yourself to avoid payment or “refuse to receive the payment when fully tendered” to you.

If you believe you have a claim for “waiting-time penalties” against a former employer, please visit our “Contact Us” page to arrange for your free, 30-minute consultation.