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Final Paychecks – When Are They Due? (2018)

PaycheckA question I hear a lot is: “I just left my job, when is my employer supposed to pay me my last paycheck?” The answer is: it depends.

If you were fired or laid off

If the employer ended your employment — fired you, laid you off, eliminated your position, etc. — they must have your final paycheck ready for you on your last day of work.

If you quit – without notice

If you ended your employment — you resigned or you quit — without notice, then the employer must have the check ready for you within 72 hours AFTER your last day of work.

If you quit – with notice

But if you quit AND if you gave at least 3 days advance notice to your employer of when your last day of work will be, then the employer must have your final paycheck ready for you on your last day.

Some additional things to keep in mind about final paychecks

  1. The final paycheck must include pay for all hours you have worked, including any overtime and double time. It must also include payment of any unused vacation hours or PTO. Note, you are NOT entitled to be paid for any unused paid sick hours unless the employer’s policies or agreements with you say otherwise.
  2. The employer cannot make you wait until the next payday to give you your last check.
  3. The employer cannot attach any strings to your last check. For instance, the employer cannot hold back your check unless you agree to sign a bunch of papers, or unless you first turn in your keys and uniform, or unless you pay back the loan they gave you, or unless you pay for the damage you did to the company vehicle, or unless you first talk to the company’s lawyers, etc.
  4. If you ask the employer to mail the last paycheck to you at your home address, the employer must comply. They cannot force you to come to the office to come pick up your final check if you do not want to.

If your employer fails to give you your final paycheck on time

If your employer does not comply with the above, then they are the hook to pay you a penalty for each day they don’t pay you all of your final wages, up to a maximum of 30 days of your average daily pay. See California Labor Code Section 201 and Section 203. For most people, that ends up being 1.5 months of pay! The employer does have certain legal defenses to these penalties, but they are narrow and can be difficult to establish.

Above all, keep in mind, your final paycheck has special status under the law. If your employer has not given you your last paycheck on time, consider filing a labor board complaint. Also, consider talking things over with a lawyer as there could be more penalties that apply to your situation.


  1. Delia on March 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    I gave a whole month notice to my employer. My last day will be on 3/15/18 and I am being told that my check will be processed until 3/16/18 and probably wont hit my bank until 3/19/18. Am I entitled to those extra 2-4 days since I am still waiting on my check?

  2. Monica perez on March 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    I work for a dental office and my supervisor said i dont get paid we dont make any money and the Dr who they hired quite on us for the same reason and now I’ve been wating more time for my check she cut my hours and we are down but i keep working and no check what can I do im suppstue get payed 5 and 20

  3. Chris on March 7, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I was laid off/discharged from an out of state employer, due to my job being eliminated.

    I was handed a packet that is questionable to all ends.

    I’m on my last days of reading and reviewing all documents that coincide, contradict or impact my their offer and now I noticed my last check has deductions that are inconsistent with previous direct deposits. This is after the 10-day waiting period per my bank because the check was handwritten & unusual to them. My previous employer’s bank would not assist (3 calls over 2-days, my bank was hung-up on and sent to voicemail). My bank even contacted my employer but only received voicemail. So I incurred a couple overdraft fees that added to the long list of other items to jump on when lay offs happen.

    Now I would like to know if I should bother to address their last check with them during my response to their severance offer???

  4. James F on March 5, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Hi, I was let go on the Wednesday February 28, my contract ended. I revived my last pay check Friday March 2nd, The day I left had logged 32 hrs. of work, if I calculated this right should I get 40 hrs. or 48 hrs. I only received 32 hr., I am also entitled pay for the time I am waiting for wait time pay?

  5. Ceci on March 3, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    I was let go because they stated “reconstruction of business” but they didn’t give me my bonus gift certificate for making goal the previous month. How long do they have until they have to give it to me.

  6. dalila on February 22, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Hi, can you tell me what the penalty fee is for each day you are not paid your final check? I resigned from a job and did not receive my final check until 1 1/2 weeks later.

  7. Jan McAnelly on February 21, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    I was terminated on a Tues. They said they had my final check but never gave it to me. I waited until Saturday and still no check so filled out the complaint form. I finally got the check 10 days after I was terminated. The problem was they stamped it in the office postal machine on the day I was terminated. How can I prove I waited 10 days for a check. They sent it registered and I had to go to the PO to pick it up.

  8. Denise on February 20, 2018 at 11:05 am

    If my employer had me sign a employee handbook at the moment of hiring and three years later I have decided to give my 2 weeks notice but I have 8.4 days of vacation that was unused. When I asked if I would be getting my vacation paid, she pointed a page in the handbook that stated if our employment is terminated for any reason we forfeit the vacation or PTO benefits. Another page at the end of the handbook says “Team members who are discharged or who quit shall forfeit all benefits except for benefits required under federal and state laws”. Is that legal?

  9. Elizabeth on February 13, 2018 at 7:51 am

    IF an employee gives two weeks notice and then a day later, the employer tells the employee he doesn’t need to come back,is the employer required to pay the employee for the remainder of the two week’s notice?

  10. Gloria Lynch on February 12, 2018 at 2:47 am

    IF an employee gives two weeks notice and then a day later, the employer tells the employee he doesn’t need to come back,is the employer required to pay the employee for the remainder of the two week’s notice?

  11. Amie on January 26, 2018 at 10:52 am

    My son and his friend both worked at JC Penney as seasonal employees. At the end of the season, they were both laid off. Neither of them received their final check at the end of their last shift. My sons friend received his check via direct deposit 5 days later. My son received his check after several trips to the store and over a dozen calls to the payroll department 18 days later. We are requesting personnel files as Human Resources is stating that my son quit without 72 hours notice when in fact he was laid off. My suspicion is that they are claiming the same for his friend- hence the delay in payment of his final wages. Once we receive their personnel files and confirm our suspicions, we will reach out to as many other seasonal employees from that store as we can get find. As they would all be due waiting time penalties. If in fact the store management has falsified employment records by stating employees quit without notice- and also avoided paying employees immediately upon separation, should we file a complaint with the labor board? Seek an attorney?

  12. Maryanne on January 24, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I have a question
    I have been working for the YMCA for over 5 years. My last day is this Friday where I am to receive my final pay check. My question is: Can i get my sick hours of 52 hours on my final paycheck?

  13. Sarah on January 19, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    Are “personal holidays” considered PTO? My husband just gave his 2 week notice and his employer is saying they are not required to pay out personal days, only his accrued vacation time.

  14. Don Snow on January 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    My employer’s accounting department is based on the East Coast. Paychecks are paid on Friday every week. We offer Direct Deposit. If the UPS cannot make the delivery of paper checks by Friday, is my employer on the hook for a days wages paid to each employee that their check isn’t given to them? Please let me know. This has happened multiple times, and the Manager says to the employees, you should get Direct Deposit so you know you will have your check on time. Can we enforce that rule or not? I don’t think we can and that’s why I’m asking. Thanks for your time

  15. Analiza romero on January 10, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    I was doing payroll and Human resources in a company. I was offered another position as Accounts payable and agreed to do both. Am I entitled to get extra or rate adjustment?

  16. Lucia on January 5, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    My employer pays us every friday (it’s in the company book), today he did not pay us because he didn’t go in the office to sign the checks, now we have to wait till Monday to receive it. I am very upset because I was depending on my weekly check to pay bills and buy groceries since I’m living on a week to week check, this is not the first time he has done this, Iso he out of line? what can I legally do so it won’t keep occurring?

    • Eugene Lee on January 5, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      The employer is required to set a consistent pay day and stick to it. If that isn’t happening, you should consider filing a labor board claim.

  17. Paul on January 5, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    My position was eliminated effective Dec 15th, 2017. The company offered a severance package equivalent to 4.86 weeks of salary in a lump sum payment, but as of yet, I have not received that payment. The paperwork I received from them stated that I would receive the payment on the first pay date after the signed executed document was received, and all equipment was returned. Providing me a shipping address for the equipment took over 2 weeks to receive, and yet the still had the equipment before the pay date. Is the company responsible for timely delivery of severance pay just like final pay check?

    • Eugene Lee on January 5, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      In a way yes, but the law is different. For paychecks, the labor code controls the timing of payment. For severance payments, contract law controls the timing of payment. You need to look carefully at the severance agreement and see what it says about the timing of the payment. If you think the company has violated the severance agreement, then you need to look for an attorney to help you file a breach of contract claim.

  18. Betshavee luque on January 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Question: I worked for my original employer about 8 yrs. Before he sold the company. So now I have a new boss. Now the whole time I was there, I got paid holidays , 5 sick days and 5 vacation days. But now this new owner only gives u 3 sick days & only 2 vacation days. I mean really? Just 2 days. That’s like a weekend. Is there anyway that I can stay with the same days as my old owner had given me or can the new owner change it as he wishes? Not taking in consideration that I have been there so many years and it’s what I was used to.
    Also, I was recently terminated when I returned from my vacation. Now on my last pay stub it clearly shows that I have 52.53 vacation hours that I have accumulated throughout this last year. When I told my boss that I wanted all those hours paid because I earned them, he told me no I only get two vacation days. Is this true? And if so, then why does it show in my last pay stub that I have all those hours remaining? To me, they are earned wages that belong to me for all the hours I worked this past year. Please let me know if I have rights to those hours.

    • Eugene Lee on January 5, 2018 at 9:42 pm

      This is a fairly complicated situation, please give us a call at (213) 992-3299 and we can discuss it.

  19. Kelly on December 27, 2017 at 6:57 am

    My former employer laid me off right before christmas on 12/22 and made me sign a NDA in order to get $1600 paycheck on pay day. I left and realized that he should of had my check for me ready. I told him your violating california labor laws. He gives me my check on 12/26 and its only up til the day he laid me off.($400 less.of $1600 he said he would give) Am I entitled to any wait penalty or full $1600 if he made me sign a nda to get final check on my regular pay period even though he laid me off on 12/22 and didnt pay until 12/26 and was trying to wait until.12/29.?

    • Eugene Lee on December 31, 2017 at 7:24 am

      Kelly, by law, you aren’t required to sign anything to receive your paycheck. Once you’ve worked the hours, that paycheck is your property. So first word of advice, at your next job, don’t sign the NDA. Second, the answer to your question depends entirely on what you signed. Normally, you would be entitled to penalties under California labor laws. But if what you signed gave up your legal rights, a labor lawyer would need to review it carefully to see rights you have left.

  20. Bobbie on December 12, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Over the summer I took two trips and some of the time was requested as unpaid. The time was never docked from my salary. I did tell my manager that they had not docked my paycheck and he said he would look into it. I have now resigned and I am concerned that they will now try to go back and dock those days from my final check. Is that legal?

    • Eugene Lee on December 13, 2017 at 10:47 pm

      No. Employers can never “dock” paychecks at any time, let alone from your last paycheck, unless they have a signed written consent from you. The employer’s proper recourse is to file a small claims action (or civil suit if the amount is big enough) against you. You should examine your last paycheck carefully. If you find there are deductions on there that you did not consent to in writing, you should consider filing a labor board claim.

  21. Robin Olvera on December 11, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    My husband gave his verbal notice 3 weeks in advance to his company. His last day would be Dec 1. Before his last week they asked him if he could stay an extra week due to an employee who had a medical emergency. He then put in writing his notice as Dec 8 being his last day. They then did not need him for the extra week. He did not work that week either. On Dec 5th the employer asked him if he wanted his check mailed or sent. He said he would let them know. He then went in to pick up the check two days later and they had mailed his check which he never agreed to. It is now Dec 12, tomorrow, and he still has not received his final pay. Whether his final pay was calculated Dec 1 or Dec 8 they are not in compliance to the law correct? We are in California. They said it was sent registered mail. Still have not received it.

    • Eugene Lee on December 13, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      You are correct, the last check is late and your husband is owed for waiting time penalties. I think 12/8/17 will likely be deemed the last day worked and the day on which the employer should have either handed your husband his check, or your husband should have received the check in the mail. Since neither happened, penalties began to run from 12/8/17 until whenever your husband finally receives the check. Your husband should make a copy of the check when it finally comes, as well as the envelope it comes in. He should then file a labor board claim.

  22. Henry on December 9, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Company I work for was sold, new company came in and presented me with a new pay plan which is approximately 50% of my former rate. If I don’t sign, they say its constructive resignation.

    If I don’t sign it do they have to pay me up to last day worked according to my old signed pay plan?

    • Eugene Lee on December 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      There is no such thing as constructive resignation. If you don’t sign, and they don’t allow you to continue working, that is more likely to be deemed a termination.

      Unfortunately there is no way to answer your question about how much pay they owe without reviewing your current agreement and the specific facts of your situation.

  23. jane mitchell on November 29, 2017 at 7:36 am

    If the employers payrol office is out of state and the employee is paid hourly, does the employer still have to have the paycheck there for final day worked? Ex. I have an employee’s last day to work is Thursday, 11/30 and she is hourly? How can i possible issue the check if I am unsure of how many hours she will actually work?

    • Eugene Lee on December 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm

      If the employee is being terminated (or is quitting with at least 72 hours advance notice), then yes, the check has to be ready to give to the employee on their last day. Many employers write out the final check by hand. Of course you will need to anticipate the number of hours worked by the employee on their last day. You could look at the clock in time that day, then decide what the clock out time should be, calculate the hours expected to be owed for the day, then issue the check in that amount and have it ready to go at the clock out time. Some employers even add 1-2 hours in just to give themselves a safety margin.

      Most employers would benefit by consulting with an employer-side lawyer for 30 minutes or so. It won’t cost much and the headaches it saves will be priceless, and many times more than the consulting fee. Our firm doesn’t do that, but there are a ton of good employer-side lawyers out there.

  24. Abby on November 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

    If the employer’s headquarters are out of state and a check is overnighted for your last day of employment but the shipment is delayed through no fault of the employer, is that still considered delinquent or does that meet the good faith effort of trying to pay on the last day of employment?

    • Eugene Lee on November 14, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      I don’t think there would be a waiting time penalty if, like you said, it was not the fault of the employer.

  25. Linda a concern employee on November 13, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    If I have accumulated sick time on the books and I am asked to resign, can a company keep my sick time I have accumulated over the years if I do not resign? The company I work for will ask employees to resign, if they get fired they will lose all there sick time. Is this legal?

    • Eugene Lee on November 13, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      Accrued but unused sick days are NOT paid out at the end of employment like vacation or PTO. You do need to check your company policies to make sure your employer doesn’t combine paid sick days with vacation days or PTO. If they do, then paid sick days may need to be paid out after all. Whether you resign or are terminated does not affect your right to be paid for unpaid vacation or PTO, only the timing of when you must be paid (on your last day of work, or 72 hours later). An employer could CHOOSE to pay out unused paid sick days at the end of employment, but they aren’t legally required to do so. In that case, if they have a policy that takes it back if you resign, I suppose that would not be a violation. But I would have to review your employer’s policies to be sure.

  26. Jonathan on November 8, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Does this also “depend” on whether the company is privately-owned or a government entity?

    • Eugene Lee on November 8, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Jonathan, that is a very good point. Last check penalties do not apply to so-called public entities (i.e., government entities ) like the US Postal Service. Government entities enjoy many special immunities and protections. There is a specific California Labor Code section that addresses this: Section 220(b)

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