Over the last few months, more workers than ever before have been laid off or lost their jobs. Because of this, many employers must juggle a surge in issuing final paychecks while calculating PTO, sick days, and other types of compensation for employees. The following sections explain the different types of employer separation and the unique payment laws for each.
If You Were Laid Off
If you were laid off, you’re entitled to a final paycheck immediately or on the day of layoff. Luckily in California, the state law protects employees by requiring that employers include all accrued, unused vacation or PTO in the employee’s final pay. This amount must also be paid on that same day, regardless of the employer’s policy – this is different compared to other states, so keep this in mind if your company is based in another state and you work from California.
There are a few exceptions for employees in specific industries:
- If you are laid off due to the end of seasonal employment in the curing, canning or drying of any variety of perishable fruit, fish or vegetables. These employees must be paid within 72 hours after layoff. Payment can be made by mail to any employee who requests and designates a mailing address.
- If you are laid off from the oil drilling industry. These employees must be paid within 24 hours after being laid off, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
If You Quit or Resign
If you quit and give your employer at least 72 hours notice – yes 72 hours notice, not the two weeks you may have thought – the employer must pay the employee all wages due at the time of quitting. Keep this rule in mind, as many people can feel guilty for quitting and sometimes don’t follow up on this shorter timeline.
If the employee fails to provide their employer with at least 72 hours’ notice prior to quitting, the employer must pay the employee all wages due within 72 hours after the time of quitting.
In both instances, an employee may request their final wages be mailed to a designated address. If this is the case, the date of mailing is considered the date of payment.
If You Were Fired, Discharged or Terminated
If you were discharged from employment by your employer, they must pay you all wages, including accrued, unused PTO, at the time of termination. This refers to the day that your employer lets you know about the separation – which still holds true when working from home.
If You Aren’t Paid on Time
If your employer provides your final paycheck to you on time, you may still be entitled to a waiting time penalty if you don’t receive your compensation in full. For example, if your employer pays you some of your final paycheck on time but pays the rest on your regular payday two weeks later, you are entitled to two weeks of waiting time penalties. Another example is if your final paycheck doesn’t include all unused, accrued vacation time. The waiting time date doesn’t end when your employer makes their first payment to you but instead when your employer pays you the entire amount of owed compensation, capped at 30 days.
There are some instances where your employer may not need to pay a waiting time penalty. The specifics can be unique to each situation and sometimes complicated to sort through. If you haven’t received your final paycheck on time, or if you have only received some of what you’re owed, you have options. You can file a lawsuit against your employer or file a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).
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