Getting Your Dues: When Is Your Employer Legally Obligated to Pay?

When you finish an honest day’s work, you expect an honest day’s pay. When your employer doesn’t pay you what you deserve, it can create financial problems for you, and it can leave you worried and frustrated. You might start to wonder about California’s wage laws. Understanding what California law has to say about your right to fair pay can help you take the right steps in order to get the pay that you deserve.

Receiving wage

Here’s what you need to know about when your employer is legally obligated to pay and what you can do to recover unpaid wages in California:

Unpaid overtime

California has some of the strongest overtime laws in the United States. In California, you’re entitled to overtime whenever you work more than a standard workday or a standard workweek. A standard workday is eight hours. A standard workweek is not more than 40 hours or six days of work no matter how many hours you work in a day. Your employer must pay you 1.5 times your hourly rate for overtime. If you work beyond 12 hours in any single day, your employer must pay you twice your typical rate.

Exemptions to overtime laws

There are some cases where the overtime laws don’t apply. California’s overtime laws may not apply in the following circumstances:

  • Government workers
  • Professionals
  • Close family members of employers
  • Some professional drivers
  • Highly-compensated, commissioned employees
  • Actors and media personalities
  • Babysitters
  • Participants in collective bargaining agreements

Employers must pay on time

In addition to paying employees overtime when they’ve earned it, your employer must pay you within a reasonable amount of time. In California, employers must pay their employees not less than twice a month. They must establish regular paydays, and they must conspicuously post notice of paydays so that employees know what to expect.

Employers have a limited amount of time to pay after you complete a day of work. Typically, they must pay you within 10 days after a pay period ends. If they pay you more than twice monthly, they have seven days to pay you after a pay period ends.

Receiving final pay

Final pay

When you leave an employer, collecting your final pay can be frustrating. If your employer is late to issue your final paycheck, they owe you a full day of pay for each day they’re late paying you. You may claim up to 30 days of penalty pay. If there’s a good-faith dispute about the amount that they owe you, they can withhold the disputed pay without owing a penalty.

You have a right to fair pay

If your employer isn’t paying you fairly, you have options. You can file a complaint with a California agency that enforces wage laws, or you can bring a formal complaint in court. You have a right to overtime pay unless you fall into one of the exceptions. You also have the right to receive your pay on time, and you have the right to receive your final paycheck promptly. California laws allow deserving workers to enforce their rights to fair pay.