Paycheck A 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.

236 Comments

  1. A on November 22, 2020 at 3:58 am

    I was laid off 11/18/2020 and was provided with two paystubs. One for the week ending on 11/13/20 and one for 11/20/20….

    Both paystubs have the same check# but different payday timelines.

    I received one payment with direct deposit for one week and nothing for the second week, although they sent me the paystub saying it was paid on 11/18/2020 with direct deposit but I wasn’t paid anything. It’s now 11/22/20 and still no payment.

    I’m afraid to even reach out to them with any questions.

    My employer forbidden me to contact them or any employee and even went as far as saying that I had to be mindful of the company NDA signed agreement and to be careful.

    What should I do?

    Is this considered willfully do they have to pay me for the days that I have been waiting?

    Thank you.

  2. Malon Bruce on October 7, 2020 at 8:55 am

    I am the HR person at our church and our Secretary resigned to care for her mother and then said she would stay on to train the new secretary. She said that she would be back and work as an assistant to the secretary after caring for her mom. So we kept her active on payroll.

    She decided to not come back to the area and so we decided to deactivate her in our payroll system and send her the vacation and sick time that had accumulated.

    My question is, when were we required to do that? What is the time frame to give her the final check in a situation where we weren’t sure when or if she was coming back

  3. Jane on September 14, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I was laid off and my final day of work was last Monday. Should I have been compensated already for the time worked and also paid out for my unused vacation?

  4. Amanda on July 7, 2020 at 7:19 am

    Hello, I originally gave a two week notice, but it was cut short by two days due to some issues with management. I advised on Tuesday i would not be returning the next week, but there was a holiday in between (Friday, in observance of 4th of July). It is now Tuesday, and no one has spoken to me about receiving my last check. Is it 72 business hours they legally have? Or just 72 hours from my last day?

    • Elysia Long on August 31, 2020 at 8:24 am

      72 clock hours from the time you gave notice.

  5. Elizabeth Perez on June 20, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Hi, i was suspended from work on 6/8/20 up until they terminated me on 6/15/20. Then I was given 2 additional checks, #1 was for the day 6/15/20(which i didnt work) and #2 was “back pay”(per HR) because My Boss owed me a review on my aniversary date 11/2019(which she never did) & it was a raise of .84 cents.($18.54) Check came out to $454.00. I worked various shifts and get a differential of $2.00 when i work graveyard. Does this seem right?
    Does that sound right?

    • Briseida on June 25, 2020 at 10:48 am

      So I quit my job without notice yesterday at 1:28pm and today I was messaged my them asking for my address and I told them I didn’t want my check mailed I wanted to pick it up and she said no that they were going to mail it and we went back and forth and I told her that I had the right to pick it up and I was the only one that could say u wanted it mailed. Then after she replies and says that she was just made it aware that it was already mailed and I was never made aware of this. Is this against the law? What do I do?

      • Sniff My Cheeks on July 25, 2020 at 6:53 pm

        Bitch, shut up and stop looking for a lawsuit. Stop your whining over a ‘bottom of the barrel cesspool job.’ A common idea would be to go to college – achieving your GED is a honorable start – but shut the fuck up! The way you educate your mind is the exact same way commoners treat you. Oh, commoners are daily folks….I am a disabled student with more collegiate accomplishments than you would imagine. What you currently have going on is your reward for ignorance….Shit pie now eat it but don’t let me smell your breath.

        • Malia on August 7, 2020 at 7:20 am

          Sniff my checks – Hahaha wth is your problem?! Why are you getting all crazy with her? Check yo damn self 🙄

          • Tina on August 8, 2020 at 8:07 am

            Like literally who has time to be that mad on a public question forum

        • Mar on August 8, 2020 at 11:38 am

          This person was obviously sew,d for all his
          Money LMAO explains why he’s so fucking but hurt, i bet your wife left you now that your moneyless and down on your dick

        • You’re sick on September 27, 2020 at 5:45 am

          This is a disabled persons complex for sure

  6. Michelle on March 18, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    I work for an employer. After hiring me, they added and additional sister company to my duties but did not adjust my compensation, nor add to my duties in my employee file. Am I due any hourly pay in addition to my current salary?

    • George on March 20, 2020 at 10:18 am

      What if work slows down and i can’t pay my rent

      • Eugene Lee on March 20, 2020 at 11:25 am

        Depending on where you are in California, there may be a moratorium on all evictions. See this link: Newsom did not issue a statewide eviction ban.

      • Marina L on April 4, 2020 at 10:25 am

        I was terminated on March 30th over the phone because headquarters are in a different location. I was only employed for one month. I was told the check would be mailed out to me. It’s April 4th now and I still haven’t recieved a check. If I receive the check does it have to be dated the day I was terminated in order for it to not be late?

        • Minh M on June 8, 2020 at 9:31 am

          They usually base it off the postmarked date (which should be 3/30/2020). People cannot control the speed of the USPS or other carriers.

    • venice gamble on April 30, 2020 at 6:38 am

      Hi Michelle,

      Unfortunately there is no legal statute that required an employer to pay you more for additional duties and responsibilities that they add (that is in addition to what your initial duties were upon hire). My suggestion would be to show your employer you have excelled in the added responsibility and after 6-months to a year, ask for a performance review and therefore a raise… good luck.

  7. J on March 18, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    My employer put me on administrative leave for requesting travel reimbursement for a hotel. I used my reward points to pay for the hotel. The company had no policy referencing reward points for credit cards or third party hotel bookings. That is the last I have heard from my employer. I was not paid my weekly hours. What method of delivery can an employer terminate an employee on administrative leave? I did not receive any US mail or certified letter attempted deliveries. Does third party overnight mail count as good faith delivery even if never delivered or delivered late (over a week) if the employer can easily track the undelivered status?

  8. JR on February 20, 2020 at 8:16 am

    All of these articles seem to encourage people to sue everyone. What is wrong with this site and state?
    I came on here, as an employer, to look up current rules and make sure I’m in compliance.
    Virtually every article seems to remind the employee just how much they stand to gain should they decide to sue or complain. Not once does there seem to be a common sense approach like talking to the company, asking if you can have more breaks, etc. It is only look at how much money you can make by not saying anything then, suing.

    • Takethisjobandshoveit on April 13, 2020 at 2:09 pm

      This is the first time I have been to this site and don’t see any of what you claim to see. I can tell you are a true HR “Professional”

    • Malia on August 7, 2020 at 7:25 am

      Hi JR,
      As an employer you should make sure you have someone in place who knows all these laws. Sad to say but for too long a lot of employers have taken advantage of employees. Follow the laws and you won’t have to worry about a lawsuit. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  9. justin on January 22, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    Labor code 201 when am I supposed to receive my 401k after i am no longer an employee with a company?

    i’m trying to get them to give me the paperwork so I can get it to my bank do I have to wait 2 1/2 months?

  10. Jose on January 2, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Name is Jose. I was fired last month on the 22nd never received my last paycheck on that day. What should I do

    • Venice Gamble on April 30, 2020 at 6:41 am

      Contact an attorney to review your rights, explain circumstances, and see if you have a case to seek damages (and if it is worth the time, costs, and aggravation). Best of luck!

  11. Georgia on December 9, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    I gave a two-week notice to my food service job on Thursday but then found out on Sunday that I would have to start my new job sooner than expected. I texted my manager to let him know then I found coverage for all of my scheduled shifts. Do I have to wait until our next payday to receive my final pay since I left sooner than stated on my two-week notice?

  12. Mabel on November 8, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    Hello!
    I quit with giving effective immediately notice on oct 12 and in the notice I requested my check to be mailed to me (I forgot to write out my address but it shows up on my check) I’ve contacted the office manager via text about 3 times to be exact asking if my check has been mailed and the only time she responded (last week) she said that she would check and if it wasn’t she would mail it, I texted her this week for an update, no response. Am I entitled to wage penalties? It’s been about 28 days since the pay day was due. How do I ask for my wage penalties if I am titled? What happens if they pay me but refuse to give me the wage penalties?

    • SHAYDA on November 21, 2019 at 6:47 pm

      Hi Mabel,

      I recently experienced same issue as you are facing and my situation resulted in a favorable outcome…

      In CA, the penalty is a full day of wages for every day final pay is late…and it caps at 30 days. Penalty applies if Employer WILLINGLY fails to pay…penalty doesn’t apply to an employer that unknowingly fails to pay. That said, the law does not perceive an employer’s ignorance as justification.

      My advice to you…

      Compose a demand letter, include a reference to your resignation letter where your inital request about final pay was stated, along with subsequent calls you made and what you were told.

      Include reference to the
      specific code/labor law that you are protected under, and state exact dollar amount you are owed, followed by the formula used to make your calculation, (be sure confirm your calculation with department of labor prior to sending)

      Demand payment to be issued in order to avoid further penalties.

      In my situation…a measley $100 final pay resulted in the company having to pay me $2400.00.

      Good luck!

      • Greg on July 26, 2020 at 7:00 pm

        Hello,

        I was forced to quit or get terminated due to attendence points, I chose not to quit and told them they could terminate me and HR said ok they’ll send me termination papers and final check as only option. July 9th was not overnighted. Tracking number says made it to usps 11th and now it’s 26th and still hasn’t gotten to me Will I have a winnable claim for penalty pay?

    • JR on February 20, 2020 at 8:18 am

      She says your check is there. Just go pick it up. Why should you be “entitled” to anything more than that?

      • Au on March 5, 2020 at 11:12 am

        Because its the law. They are required to mail it to her if she asks for it to be mailed. Its not that hard to mail a check.
        If it is that hard, then they need a better payroll/HR staff and that’s not her (their) fault.

  13. eboh on October 3, 2019 at 10:00 pm

    so I was terminated on the 25th and I work for a school district. I usually get paid the very last working day of the month. sept 30 came and went and I still do not have any paper works stating the board terminated me and I still don’t have my paycheck. what can I do? I have sick leave, vacation, dependent lea e, and holiday pay that I did not use totaling to 168 hours. are they going to pay me for those hours? if so are they going to be combined with my other pay they owe me?

    • Karin on October 11, 2019 at 7:44 am

      if you are in California they must pay you for all hours worked up to the last day of employment including PTO or VAC depending on the type of time off policy they don’t have to pay you for sick time. the check had o be given to you on your last day of work 9/25 if you didn’t received you can file a claim with the state wage and hours dept you should be entitle to waiting time penalty until the day you receive the check.

    • Maricella Salgado on December 12, 2019 at 8:05 pm

      I work for a school district, and they cut me during my probation period because I was nice and became friends with office staff my last day work when they told me I was fired I ask for my check and they said I wouldn’t get it until the end of month and school district have special law and do not have to give me my check on my last day is that true?

  14. Maggie Sias on October 2, 2019 at 7:16 am

    If an Employer honors a 2-week notice with final date of 10/15, let’s say, but Employee does not need to report to work, is 10/15 still the official final day if he is being paid for regular and OT hours he’d have worked on a regular basis during the 2 week notice?

  15. James Schaeffer on September 20, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Spoke with eugene lee about a truck driver claim

  16. Rob on September 17, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    What if a final check was never cashed, is the terminated employee entitled to have the check reissued? Is there a maximum timeframe to get this done?

  17. Deb on September 13, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Can you collect penalty pay for not being paid your penalty pay? I just received my PTO check. That took 12 days. Is the clock still ticking since the have not paid the penalty pay?

  18. Lorena on September 12, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    On 12/03/18 My manager called me at his office and told me a authority above him tell him to let me go, I got paid for the 4 days the I was schedule ti work in that week but he did no give me my last check, that evening my manager called me to see how I was doing, I asked for my last check and he said it will check on it with his manager, next day he told me the I was not fired the I was in the system and I will get pay in the regular pay period, which was on 12/14/18 I was schedule to work other days in December but I was informed by my manager that wont happen do to problems between managers, the called me to work four days in January 19 they never called me back but they said I was not laud off or fire, also did not get my 401K, and they never granted me a single rest period, I was on call employee, but sometimes did worked over 40hrs a week.

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