can an employer withhold pay

Can an employer withhold pay? In California, wage laws are designed to protect employees’ rights and ensure they receive fair compensation for their work. However, there are specific instances when an employer can withhold pay. Understanding these circumstances is crucial for both employers and employees. This article explores whether an employer can hold pay, providing clarity on a topic that often causes confusion.



Understanding California Wage Laws

The wage laws in the State of California are among the strictest in the nation. The California Labor Code and regulations set by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) govern how and when employees should be paid, and employers must pay promptly and in full for all hours worked.

Is it Possible for Employer Withhold Pay?

The simple answer is yes, but only under specific circumstances. Employers must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure they are not unlawfully withholding wages.

When Can an Employer Withhold Pay in California?

Payroll Errors and Corrections

Employers can withhold pay temporarily to correct payroll errors. For example, if an employee was overpaid in a previous pay period, the employer can adjust the subsequent paycheck to correct the mistake. However, the correction must be clearly communicated to the employee, and the adjustment must be reasonable.

Advances on Wages

If an employer provides an advance on wages, they can withhold future earnings to recover the amount advanced. This arrangement should be documented, and the terms must be agreed upon by both the employer and the employee.

Deductions for Benefits and Taxes

An employer in California can withhold pay for legally mandated deductions such as federal and state taxes, Social Security, and Medicare. Deductions for employee benefits like health insurance premiums, retirement plan contributions, and other agreed-upon benefits are also permissible.

Court Orders and Garnishments

Employers must comply with court orders, such as wage garnishments for child support, alimony, or unpaid debts. In such cases, the employer withholds the specified amount from the employee’s paycheck as directed by the court.

Losses Due to the Employee's Actions

In specific cases, employers can withhold pay to cover losses caused by the employee’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence. For example, if an employee damages company property due to reckless behavior, the employer may withhold wages due to cover the repair costs. However, such actions must be legally justified and documented.

Employee Rights and Recourse on Delayed Final Paychecks

How long can an employer not pay you? Employees have rights and protections against unlawful withholding of wages. If an employee believes their wages are being wrongfully withheld, they can take the following steps:

  1. Discuss with the Employer: Open communication with the employer is often the first step. Addressing the issue directly can sometimes resolve misunderstandings or errors without the need for further action.
  2. File a Wage Claim: If internal discussions fail, employees can file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE investigates the claim and takes appropriate action to recover unpaid wages if the withholding is found to be unlawful.
  3. Seek Legal Assistance: When an employer can withhold pay becomes a legal matter, consulting with an experienced employment lawyer in California can provide valuable guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions on California Labor Laws on Paychecks

Can an employer withhold pay if I quit without notice?

No, an employer cannot withhold pay if an employee quits without notice. Under California state law, an employee who quits must be paid all earned wages within 72 hours. If the employee gives at least 72 hours’ notice, they must be given their final wages on their last day of employment.

Can an employer withhold my final paycheck?

Per the California final paycheck law, employers are required to pay employees all earned wages promptly upon termination. For involuntary termination, employees must receive their final paycheck immediately. For voluntary resignation, employees must receive their final paychecks within 72 hours or on their last day if they provided notice.

What can I do if my employer withholds my pay?

If you believe your employer is withholding your pay unlawfully, you can file a wage claim with the DLSE or seek legal assistance from an employment attorney to recover your wages.

Can an employer withhold pay for damaged equipment?

Yes, but only if the damage was caused by the employee’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence. The withholding must be reasonable and documented, and the employee should be informed of the deduction.

Are there limits to how much an employer can garnish from my wages?

Yes, there are limits to wage garnishments. Under California law, the maximum amount that can be garnished is 25% of the employee’s disposable earnings or the amount by which their weekly earnings exceed 40 times the state minimum hourly wage, whichever is less.

What is a waiting time penalty?

A waiting time penalty in California is a financial penalty imposed on employers who fail to pay an employee all earned wages promptly upon termination. If an employer fails to pay a terminated employee their final check on time, the latter is entitled to continue receiving their daily wage for up to 30 days until the wages are paid. This penalty aims to ensure timely payment of wages and can significantly increase the employer’s liability for non-compliance with wage laws.

Protect Your Rights with RTM Law Firm.
Call Our Employment Lawyer for a Free Case Review.

If you believe your wages are being wrongfully withheld, the compassionate labor attorneys at RTM Law Firm are here to help. Our experienced team can guide you through the legal process and work tirelessly to recover the wages you rightfully earned.


Contact us today to get a free consultation and take the first step towards resolving your wage dispute. Your rights and fair compensation matter to us.




    We Help Accident Victims File
    a Personal Injury Claim in Santa Ana

    Our Santa Ana personal injury attorneys handle a wide range of personal injury claims in several areas, including:

    ✔ Artesia Pilar
    ✔ Bella Vista
    ✔ Bristol Memory Coalition
    ✔ Bristol-Warner
    ✔ Cabrillo Park
    ✔ Casa Bonita
    ✔ Casa De Santiago
    ✔ Cornerstone Village
    ✔ Delhi
    ✔ Downtown Santa Ana
    ✔ Edna Park
    ✔ Fairhaven
    ✔ Fairview Village
    ✔ Floral Park
    ✔ Flower Park
    ✔ French Court

    ✔ Heninger Park
    ✔ Laurelhurst
    ✔ Logan
    ✔ Lyon Street
    ✔ Mabury Park
    ✔ Madison Park
    ✔ Mar-Les
    ✔ Metro Classic
    ✔ Mid-City
    ✔ Morning Sunwood
    ✔ New Horizons
    ✔ Pacific Park
    ✔ Panorama Heights
    ✔ Park Santiago
    ✔ Pico-Lowell
    ✔ Portola Park

    ✔ Republic Homes
    ✔ Riverview West
    ✔ Saddleback View
    ✔ Sandpointe
    ✔ Santa Anita
    ✔ Shadow Run
    ✔ South Coast Metro
    ✔ Sunwood Central
    ✔ Thornton Park
    ✔ Valley Adams
    ✔ West Floral Park
    ✔ West Grove Valley
    ✔ Willard
    ✔ Wilshire Square
    ✔ Windsor Village
    ✔ Young Square