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Pay Dates for California Employees

This guide is for information only and is not legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to specific facts. This guide is based on general legal principles and does not address all possible claims, exceptions or conditions related to the subject matter discussed.

by Marilynn Mika Spencer

California law requires employers to pay employees according to a predetermined schedule. These requirements are described below.

For current employees, Labor Code section 204 requires all of the following:

  1. Employers must establish regular pay dates and provide notice of these dates to all employees.
  2. Employers must pay employees at least twice per month.
  3. For work performed between the 1st and 15th of the month, the employer must pay employees between the 16th and 26th days of the same month.
  4. For work performed between the 16th of the month and the last day of the month, the employer must pay employees between the 1st and 10th of the following month.
  5. Some executive, administrative and professional employees may be paid only once per month, on or before the 26th of each month; this must include pay for work that will be performed between the 26th and the end of the month.
  6. Employees who are paid weekly, biweekly or semimonthly must be paid within seven calendar days of the close of the payroll period.
  7. Scheduled overtime must be paid per the requirements listed above.
  8. Unscheduled overtime must be paid no later than the following pay date.

Some types of pay have different pay requirements. For example, per the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) Enforcement Manual section 5.2.4:

  1. Commissions must be paid when they are reasonably calculable.
  2. Bonuses must be paid on the first regular pay date following the date upon which the bonus is calculated. For example, a quarterly bonus must be paid on the first pay date after the end of the quarter.

For employees whose employment is ending, Labor Code sections 201, 202 and 203 require the following:

  1. If the employer ends the employment relationship, the employer must pay everything owed to the employee at the time of termination, including all accumulated wages, overtime, vacation and PTO. (Labor Code section 201)
  2. However, for seasonal employees working in curing, canning, or drying perishable fruit, fish or vegetables, the employer has 72 hours to make full payment.
  3. If the employee ends the employment relationship without notice, the employer has 72 hours to pay the employees in full, including all accumulated wages, overtime, vacation and PTO. (Labor Code section 202)
  4. If an employer does not pay an employee whose employment has ended as required, then the employer is subjected to a penalty for late payment. The penalty is that the wages of the employee continue in full as if the employee were still working from the date of termination to the date paid in full, for a maximum of 30 days. (Labor Code section 203)

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) is a sub-agency within the California Department of Industrial Relations. Some people refer to the DLSE as the Labor Commissioner. The DLSE enforces California's wage and hour laws, including those pertaining to overtime, rest and meal breaks, and more. The link for information on filing a wage claim is here: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm.

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