payday on calendar

Paying workers on time in California isn’t just a good business practice; it’s the law. State legislators have long recognized that late payments cause serious financial disruption to a person’s life and essentially amount to wage theft. Workers who are not paid on time can recover monetary penalties and other damages. We’re here to provide legal assistance if you work in California and are having difficulty being paid on time.

What the law says about paying employees

California employers must compensate their employees for their work, including their hourly wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and anything else the employer has promised. Employers must also pay their workers on time, depending on their customary pay periods. Employees are generally paid weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or semi-monthly. The key is for the employer to have regular and consistent pay periods.

As a general rule, workers must be paid for all labor they perform during a given pay period. They must receive their pay, including overtime, within seven days of the date the pay period ends. Exempt executives and professionals who are paid on a salary basis can be paid once a month, as long as they are paid by the 26th of each month. If an employee provides only temporary services, he or she must be paid at the end of each week worked.

What if the employee is fired or quits?

If a worker is fired, he or she must be immediately paid for wages and accrued vacation. Payment is to be made at the location where the employee is terminated. If an employee quits, he or she must be paid wages and other earned compensation within 72 hours.

An issue that often arises in these contexts is when employers and employees disagree on pay. If there is a disagreement over how much compensation the worker is owed (whether or not the worker is fired or quits), the employer must at least pay the employee everything that it agrees it owes. In other words, amounts that are not in dispute must be paid right away.

What if I am not paid on time?

Generally, workers who are not timely paid can file a claim under one of two laws: Section 210 of the California Labor Code or the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).

Section 210

This section of the state labor code was amended in 2019 to allow employees to file private legal actions, using their own attorneys, against employers who are late with their pay. A first-time violation carries a $100 penalty. But if the employer is intentionally late, or if the employer has been late at least once before, then the fine is $200 plus 25% of the wages that were not timely paid.

While the California Labor Commission can also take legal action under section 210, any fines levied against the employer would be paid to the Commission and not the employee.


Alternatively, the employee can take action under the Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA. As the name implies, PAGA allows unpaid workers to act as private attorneys general and file a lawsuit on behalf of the California Attorney General. Workers can win penalties similar to those under section 210, but employees can only recover 25% of the penalties while the rest goes to the state. Employees can also recover their court costs and lawyer fees.

Speak with a knowledgeable attorney to weigh your options.

What about commissions?

Commission pay can introduce a complicated element to unpaid wages for two reasons. First, these claims often arise out of contract disputes, with the commissioned employee and the employer disagreeing on whether a commission has been earned and must therefore be paid. Second, the term “commission” has a precise legal definition that must be met before an employee can bring a wage claim to recover it.

If you are a commissioned employee who has not been paid or has not been paid in accordance with the terms of your contract, talk to our firm.

Not Being Paid on Time for Your Work? Let Us Help

Are you not being timely paid for your work? Is your employer making excuses for late payments, or failing to pay you at all? We understand how disastrous late payments can be for you and your family, so let us help. Contact The Lore Law Firm today by completing our online form.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.