how long can an employer not pay you

If you work in the Golden State, you have rights regarding how and when you should be paid. Understanding California wage laws can help you ensure you receive your rightful compensation on time.


This article breaks down the rules about employer payment obligations, potential reasons for late payment or failure to pay, and what you can do if you face wage and hour issues.



California Labor Laws on Payment of Wages

Regular Payday

How long can an employer not pay you? California state law mandates that employers set regular paydays and adhere to them.

Generally, wages earned between the 1st and 15th of the month must be paid by the 26th of that month. Wages earned between the 16th and the end of the month must be paid by the 10th of the following month.

This schedule ensures that employees receive their earnings promptly and regularly (California Labor Code § 204).

Final Paycheck

When an employee resigns, they are entitled to their last paycheck within 72 hours of their last day. If they provide at least 72 hours’ notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck on the employee’s last day. For employees who are terminated or laid off, employers are required to release the final wages due immediately (California Labor Code § 202).

Why an Employer is Late: Common Reasons for Late Payment of Wages

Administrative Errors

Sometimes, delays happen due to administrative mistakes, such as errors in payroll processing or incorrect timekeeping. While these errors are often unintentional, they can still cause significant inconvenience to employees.

Financial Difficulties

An employer might delay payments if they are experiencing financial difficulties. While this might explain the delay, it does not excuse the employer from their legal obligations to pay employees on time.

Disputes Over Hours Worked

Employers and employees might disagree about the number of hours worked, especially if overtime wages are involved. While these disputes can lead to delays in earned wages, employers must pay the undisputed portion of the daily rate of pay on time.

Sometimes, employers delay payments while ensuring they comply with other legal obligations, such as tax withholdings or garnishments. However, these processes should not significantly delay payment of the wages.

What To Do If Your Employer Does Not Pay You On Time

what to do if your employer does not pay you on time

Document the Delays

Keep detailed records of your hours worked, pay periods, and any communications with your employer regarding payment. This documentation will be valuable if you need to file a complaint or take legal action.

Contact Your Employer

How long can an employer not pay you? If you notice a delay, the first step is to contact your employer directly. Sometimes, the issue can be resolved quickly through a simple conversation.

File a Complaint with the Labor Commissioner

If your employer does not address the payment issue promptly, you can file a wage claim with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The DLSE can investigate your claim and potentially penalize the employer for failing to pay wages on time (California Labor Code § 210).

In severe cases, you may need to file a claim against your employer. Consulting with an experienced employment attorney in California can help you understand your options and the best course of action to recover your pay.

Penalties for Employers Who Fail to Pay Wages on Time

Waiting Time Penalties

California law imposes waiting time penalties on employers who pay final wages late. The penalty is equivalent to the employee’s daily wage for each day the payment is late, up to a maximum of 30 days. This penalty incentivizes employers to release final payment promptly (California Labor Code § 203).

Additional Penalties for Late Payment

California employers may face additional penalties for failing to pay each employee on time, including fines imposed by the DLSE. These sanctions aim to protect employees and ensure they receive their earnings without undue waiting (California Labor Code § 1197.1).

How Long Can an Employer Not Pay You?
Protecting Your Rights

As mentioned earlier, not long. Failure to release funds when wages are due are punishable by law.


Familiarize yourself with California wage laws regarding payment schedules. Understanding these laws can help you identify when your employer is not complying with their obligations.


If you face persistent issues with your paycheck, whether for schedules, minimum wage payments, overtime, overtime, and related concerns, consult with an employment attorney for guidance and support.

Employer Taking Too Long to Release Your Final Paycheck? You Have a Right to File a Claim.
Call RTM Law Firm.

How long can an employer not pay you? California wage and hour laws are there to ensure the timely payment of wages, among others.


Understanding these laws and knowing what steps to take if your employer fails to pay you on time can help you safeguard your earnings.


If you are dealing with an employer who has not paid you as required by law, the employment attorneys at RTM Law Firm will help you.


Call (855) 786-9467 for a free and confidential consultation.




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