Pay Stub Laws California

Under California pay stub laws, an employer is required to provide to an employee’s pay stub, including basic information. The minimum information are: hours worked, deductions, and pay rate.

If an employer leaves out certain information or includes incorrect information, they may be in violation of California labor laws and subject to a statutory penalty.

Workers have historically been paid with a check. This enabled the employee to keep a record because the payment came in a form of writing. However, in this day and age, checks are obsolete and it is normal to be paid through direct deposits or bank accounts. Because there is little paper trail, employers are still required to give its employees a wage statement, also known as a pay stub, for his or her records. These allow the employee to check hours worked as well as any overtime. Moreover, it shows how much was deducted due to taxes or other time off.

The US Department of Labor may have different requirements for wages record keeping.

What are wages?

Wages is defined as payment in exchange for labor.[4] Labor is defined to include, “labor, work, or service whether rendered or performed under contract … or other agreement if the labor to be paid for is performed personally by the person demanding payment.”[5] Basically, labor includes any work performed for the benefit of an employer. Even if the employer pays with check still or cash, these statements must be given regardless of how the employee was paid. The stub must detail and include the following:

  • Personal information like name and address
  • Employer’s information
  • Total hours worked
  • Gross pay
  • Dates worked
  • Hourly rates, if applicable
  • Deductions – taxes
  • Net pay

When is wage payment due?

Most payments are paid bi-monthly, or twice a month.[7] Specifically, employers usually pay their employees the 1st and 15th of the month.[8] However, some employees, specifically those salaried and covered under the Fair Labors Standards Act, may be paid once per month.[9] This occurs with some teachers; they are paid at the first of the month for the entire month. Overtime, time worked over expected shifts, must be paid no later than the next payday in order to be determined as on time.[10]

When do I get paid if I was fired from my job?

Issues and fears usually arise when being fired or let go from a specific position. People wonder how and when will they be paid for the time worked before this termination. California sets out guidelines in order to protect both the employee and employer. If an employee is fired or terminated, payment for work done that has yet to be paid for is due immediately. For example, if you worked three shifts at a restaurant and haven’t been paid since the first of the month, you are due that three shift payment the moment of termination.[11] However, if you are laid off, the time period is not immediate but rather in a reasonable time as long as that period does not exceed 72 hours.[12]

What is the law on being paid with debit cards?

California generally allows debit card payments but there is little to no case law on this subject. However, an employer must pay its employees through a cash option meaning there cannot be a fee for the employee to deposit the money or turn it into cash.[13] This is why checks have been used for so long and now direct deposit and debit cards have become popular. If an employer chooses to use a debit card payment, it still must give an itemized paystub to its employees.[14]

Because this is a new area of law and not one well versed in statutes, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has weighed in on the use of debit cards as payment plans. Although an employer is entitled to choose this option to pay its employees, the employee has the final say on whether he or she agrees with this selection.[15] If an employee prefers to be paid through direct deposit or by check, the employer, at this time, must abide those requests.

Certain employees may be paid differently

Some employees are paid differently and at different times depending on the relationship of the parties. Temporary employees, also known as “temps” are paid differently than normal employees because he or she is usually working for a specific time period or on certain projects.[16] Each project may require different payment so his or her paystub must include the project, hours worked, and specific rates for that project.[17]

Piece-rate employees are paid for a particular task or by the projects they complete. The pay stub for these employees must include:

  • Task or number of tasks completed and
  • The rate per task or project[18]

These employees are also entitled to receive minimum wage for rest periods and time when he or she is not working.[19] Nonproductive time is ruled by the labor code and includes any time the employee may not be working on the project set out by the employer but he or she is still under the employer’s control.[20] It is important to note these employees receive this payment on top of their payment required for the task. Because there is additional steps and times the employee is being paid, his or her pay stub is required to have added information.[21] This includes: payment for nonproductive time; rate he or she is being paid for this nonproductive time, and payment for rest periods.

Exempt employees

Some employees will fall under non-exempt and exempt categories. Exempt employees are not entitled to the same benefits of non-exempt including payment for rest periods.[22] For instance, an exempt employee is only paid monthly.[23] This occurs many times with teachers, private tutors, or other exempt employees including doctors. In order to be exempt, the employee must:

  • Make a salary equal to at least double the minimum wage
  • Duties must be white collar and
  • The employee uses his own skills and controls his or her work.[24]

Do employers keep my pay stubs?

By law, employers must keep a copy of all his or her employees’ pay stubs for three years.[25] This ensures the ability of an employer or the employee to go back and check the pay stub records if necessary.[26] However, if there is a charge for producing these records, the employee is expected to pay the employer for this cost.[27]

What happens if I don’t receive a pay stub?

Employees can recover a wage statement penalty if:

  • Employer intentionally failed to provide the statement;
  • Cannot be an accident; and
  • The employee suffered an injury.

An employee will suffer an injury in different circumstances. The first is if the employer purposefully didn’t give the employee his or her statement. the second arises when there is a mistake on the actual pay stub including, but not limited to:

  • Address mistakes, or
  • Hourly rates are incorrect, or
  • Number of tasks or projects are misstated, or
  • The total of hours worked is incorrect.

Any of these instances above can lead to the employer having to pay a penalty and the employee recovering.

I think there is something wrong with my pay stub?

If you feel you have suffered an injury or have been withheld your payment stub, speaking with your employer first may be the easiest option. If this is not an option or is unsuccessful, speaking with an employment attorney can lead you in the right direction and ensure you have a case.

Brad Nakase, Attorney

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