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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.

117 Comments

  1. Branden A Rasmussen on August 13, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    I have given 2 weeks notice at work and I work a graveyard shift, I know my employer has to give me my check on my last day but does that mean by the end of my shift on my last day or do I have to come back before the end of the business day for my check? The company is les that 20 people so does my employer have to provide me Cal-COBRA information?

    • Eugene Lee on August 13, 2018 at 10:14 pm

      About your last check, he has to provide it to you on your last day before the end of your shift. In other words, you shouldn’t clock out and leave without your last check.

      About Cal COBRA, unfortunately, I’m not an expert on that. Not sure who you’d ask about that.

      • Branden on August 14, 2018 at 3:09 am

        Thank you for the VERY fast reply and the confirmation of the information.

  2. Kenn on August 13, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Why is my question/comment from earlier today not showing up?

  3. Kenn Schmidt on August 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    I work in the entertainment industry and I was just booked for a one-day job at minimum wage. When I asked when and how we would be paid, I was told in an email that we would be paid on a W-4 within “net 30 days,” but it would PROBABLY be within 3 weeks.When I said that 3 weeks was acceptable, but pointed out that paying on a “net 30” agreement was illegal according to the California Labor Board’s website, and sent them the appropriate paragraphs quoting the Labor Board’s guidelines regarding this, I received a reply by email that they were “going a different direction” and I was no longer needed. Isn’t this illegal and discriminatory??

  4. Tim on August 13, 2018 at 8:08 am

    If I quit on Thursday but the payroll office is closed during the weekend, does my employer still have 72 hours, as in Sunday to send out the check? Or 72 business hours which would make around Tuesday or Wednesday?

    • Eugene Lee on August 13, 2018 at 11:10 am

      It’s 72 regular, not business, hours. But I’m not aware of any legal opinions that answer your question exactly. I will say that if your employer gets the check out on Monday, I think that would be considered within the 72 hour deadline, since businesses are closed on Sunday.

  5. Jennie on August 10, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    I just sent them my resignation. I still have 48 hours for sick pay. My question is my company must include the sick pay in my last pay check right? Because they told me they will refuse to pay me my sick pay. It’s happen with my pay sick 2 years since I’m with them. They never give out. What should I do?

    • Eugene Lee on August 10, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      Unfortunately, unused sick pay is not paid out in your last check. In that sense, it is different from PTO or vacation.

  6. Teena on August 10, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    So I have a question, what if at 4:30 pm on Friday, someone gets fired and the payroll person is not there to cut the final check and have it signed by the company. Can they do this on Monday, overnight it to the person and not get into trouble with the DOL?

    • Eugene Lee on August 10, 2018 at 11:41 pm

      No – the employer is required to cut the check to you on your last day. At this point, the employer is late and on the hook for waiting time penalties. You should consider filing a labor board complaint.

  7. Kate on August 4, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    My last day at work was 08/03. I was given my last pay check on 08/01 and I submitted it to my bank account but today on 08/04 I got an email from bank telling me that the check was withdrawn and I was also charged a fee for that by the bank. Initially my employer was asking me to pay them money for the immigration expenses incurred to get my work visa as I signed a paper which states that I will have to pay them if I leave before completing 12 months after getting the visa. I have completed 10 months since I got the visa but they still wanted me to pay full amount. According to that paper I have 30 days to pay them and my new employer agreed to pay the expenses once I start working for them. So I told the same to the HR at my current company and I didn’t hear back anything from them after that until today when they withdrew the final paycheck.
    What should I do? Do they have right to withdraw the paycheck without even telling me?

    • Eugene Lee on August 7, 2018 at 11:36 pm

      Hi Kate, I think a lot depends on what agreement you signed with your employer. It’d be very difficult to give you any definitive answers without first reviewing that agreement. We’d be happy to take a look, please feel free to call us at (213) 992-3299.

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