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
- 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.
- The employer cannot make you wait until the next payday to give you your last check.
- 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.
- 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.