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When must I receive my final paycheck if I get fired or quit my job?

By Thomas Lee

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When must I receive my final paycheck if I get fired or quit my job?


If you are fired:


The general rules for the payment of wages upon termination are found at Labor Code § 201, et seq. Section 201 provides that in the event an employee is discharged, the wages earned and unpaid at the time of the discharge are due and payable immediately.


If you quit:


If an employee not having a written contract for a definite period quits their employment, the wages shall become due and payable not later than 72 hours thereafter, unless the employee has given 72 hours previous notice of their intention to quit, in which case the employee is entitled to their wages at the time of quitting. Regardless of other provisions of law, an employee who leaves without giving 72 hours' notice is entitled to payment by mail provided he or she requests it and provides a postal 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.


If you earned commission wages:


Some commissions are not calculable until after termination and, thus, are not due until that time. The employer has an obligation to pay those wages as soon as the amount is ascertainable and failure to pay those wages at that time will result in imposition of waiting time penalties.



What if I do not get my final paycheck on time?


Labor Code section 203 provides for what is known as a “30-day wage penalty” for when an employer willfully fails to pay, without abatement or reduction any wages of an employee who is discharged or who quits, the wages of such 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 such wages shall not continue for more than 30 days. However, 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.



What are the defenses an Employer may have in not paying a final paycheck?


The law provides the 30-day wage penalty if the employer “willfully” fails to pay the wages due. A willful failure to pay wages within the meaning of Labor Code Section 203 occurs when an employer intentionally fails to pay wages to an employee when those wages are due. However, a good faith dispute that any wages are due will preclude imposition of waiting time penalties under Section 203. A ‘good faith dispute’ that any wages are due occurs when an employer presents a defense, based in law or fact, which, if successful, would preclude any recovery on the part of the employee. The fact that a defense is ultimately unsuccessful will not preclude a finding that a good faith dispute did exist.



How can a lawyer help me get my final paycheck on time?


Los Angeles Employment Attorney Thomas M. Lee has helped many clients over the past 22 years of his practice obtain not only their unpaid final paycheck, but also unpaid overtime wages, unpaid minimum wages, meal break penalties, paycheck stub penalties, and the 30-day wage penalty. Generally, a lawsuit for unpaid wages must be filed within 3 years from when they are owed, and a lawsuit for penalties must be filed within 1 year. Call Thomas M. Lee at 213-251-5533 for a free legal consultation today.


Please note that the information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed nor relied upon as legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. For a free consultation with Attorney Thomas M. Lee, please contact us.

Los Angeles Office Location

Address: 3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2400, Los Angeles, CA 90010

Phone: 213-251-5533