How Long Does My Last Employer Have To My Last Paycheck: Labor Codes Section 203

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Paying the price for not paying you!

If you are an employee that has wilfully quit your job or who has been terminated in the state of California, then you have certain employee rights under Labor Code Section 203.  This section of the code deals with provisions for when you should get paid under such circumstances, and how long your (previous) employer has until they hand over your last paycheck to you.

If you have had the misfortune of being terminated then, in most cases (and there may be some exceptions), all payments owed to you are immediately due upon termination (Section 201).  This timeline changes slightly if you wilfully quit your employment. According to the California Labor Code (Section 202), payments in such cases are due within 72 hours of quitting.  However, if you have given more than 72 hours notice about your intent to quit, then you are entitled to all payments, including unused or accrued vacation time and other entitlements, at the time you walk out the door for the last time.

If your last employer fails to comply with these stipulations, they may have to pay a hefty price for noncompliance. Employers can face some harsh labor code penalties under Section 203, which could amount to as much as a day’s wage owed to you, up to a maximum of 30 days’ wages owed. But getting your due might not always be simple and straightforward.

Legal loopholes

Sometimes, out of the goodness of your heart, you may decide to give your employer a week’s notice, thinking that will allow you reasonable time to exit the work place with dignity and honor.  However, some employers might quickly change that “quit” into a “termination”, by asking you to immediately collect your belongings and escorting you to the exit.

Unscrupulous employers might lead you to believe that they can now hold on to your money because, since you have given them 7 days notice, you now have to wait for 7 days before you receive your last paycheck. Not so! The California Labor Code rules under Section 201 (termination) apply in this case. You are therefore entitled to receive your final wages before you are walked out the door.

Employers wanting to exploit the system might also try to misinterpret various statues and clauses to their benefit. For instance, they often hide behind the “willful failure” clause to try and either deny or delay rightful payment under the Labor Code. Employees who are ignorant of the law may also be wrongly denied timely payment due to misinterpretation of what does or does not constitute “an action” under the law.



Getting help

Specialists like Scott Miller, Attorney, can help you navigate through this complex maze that’s the Labor Code. Ignorance of the law does not strengthen your case for rightful compensation, but it certainly weakens it. So if you are fighting your employer to try and get them to release your last paycheck quickly, go to and get the help that you deserve now!


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