Your Paycheck Is Late Again — Collect Your California Labor Law Penalties.

California labor law provides that an employer can not be late giving paychecks to their employees. The law recognizes how important it is for employees to receive their paychecks on time. Late paychecks could mean being late on rent, on bills or on car payments. Labor Code Section 210, as updated by AB 673 in 2019, was passed to make sure employees get paid on time. When paychecks are late, employees have the right to request penalties be paid directly to them through the Labor Commissioner’s office. Previously, those penalties went to the State. Section 210 sets specific deadlines for when regular pay, overtime, and other types of wages should be paid. If an employer misses these deadlines, they have to pay a penalty of $100 for the first late check (or $200 if it is willful) and $200 for each late check after that plus 25% of the late wage amount. This law applies to all kinds of wages, including any meal and rest break premiums that are owed to you if are denied compliant meal or rest breaks.

What Changed with AB 673?

Statutory penalties are paid to the employee. If your employer pays you late, you can claim these penalties as a form of compensation for the inconvenience and potential financial hardship you suffered. On the other hand, civil penalties go to the State. They are like a speeding ticket charged to the employer for not following the law. Most or all of it goes to the State.

Before AB 673 was enacted in 2019, you could only seek civil penalties for late checks through a lawsuit, including by a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) action, and most or all of these civil penalties went to the State, not directly into your pocket. However, thanks to AB 673, starting from January 1, 2020, employees can recover statutory penalties for late wages directly through the Labor Commissioner’s wage claim process. This means you can be directly paid the full penalty amount owed to you for late payment of wages.

When Does a Payment Become “Late”?

According to Labor Code section 207, your wages should be paid regularly on fixed, predetermined paydays set by your employer. Section 204 states that there must be at least two paydays a month . If you are paid on a semi-monthly basis, paydays for work between the 1st and 15th days of the month should be fall between the 16th and 26th days of that month, and paydays for work between the 16th and the last day of the month should be fall between the 1st and 10th days of the following month. If you are paid on a weekly or biweekly basis, paydays should be no later than 7 days after the end of the pay period. If your employer fails to pay you on payday, or if the employer-set payday falls after the above deadlines, your employer has violated section 204 and must pay you penalties under section 210 for each late paycheck.

What About Different Types of Wages?

The penalty applies across the board, whether it’s regular pay, overtime, minimum wage, or vacation pay. Any delay can trigger a penalty. There are different rules for when specific types of wages must be paid, but the underlying principle remains the same: late is late.

What if the Payment is Made, but It’s Not Enough?

This also counts as a violation. If you’re paid less than what you’re legally owed by the due date, you’re entitled to late payment penalties. In other words, employers don’t get “partial credit” when the full amount is due.

Do These Penalties Apply to Meal or Rest Period Premium Pay?

Yes. If you’re denied or discouraged from taking all of your compliant meal or rest breaks, you would be owed premium pay for these violations. If the employer fails to pay your premium pay, that is a violation and late payment penalties under section 210 would apply.

When Did These Changes Take Effect?

The amendments made by AB 673 took effect on January 1, 2020. Generally, there’s a one-year statute of limitations for filing for late pay penalties, meaning you can claim penalties for up to one year of late payments going back from the filing of your claim. So don’t delay filing a wage claim.

What’s the Penalty Amount?

For a first-time, non-willful violation, it’s $100 for each employee affected. For subsequent violations, or if the violation is willful, it jumps to $200 per employee per payperiod, plus 25% of the amount of the late paid or unpaid wages. “Willful” does not mean what you think it means. According to the Labor Commissioner, “willful” really means “non-accidental”:

A willful or intentional violation includes all employment practices engaged in deliberately or knowingly rather than accidentally or inadvertently. Evidence of an intentional failure to perform an act required to be done is all that is required and does not depend on the ability to show an evil purpose or intent to defraud. Ignorance of the law is not a defense and does not excuse an employer’s violation.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Late-Payment-of-Wages.htm

Final Thoughts

Navigating late payment issues can be tricky, but knowing your rights is the first step towards ensuring you’re fairly compensated for your work. This includes getting your paycheck on time. If you believe your employer is not complying with these laws, it might be time to file a wage claim. Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse for employers or employees. Staying informed empowers you to stand up for your rights in the workplace.

We hope this post has helped clarify the ins and outs of late payment penalties under California law. If you have more questions or need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to speak with a labor lawyer. Remember, you deserve to be paid on time and in full for your hard work.

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