What Does California Labor Code 201 Protect?

California Labor Code 201 protects an employee’s wages at the time of discharge. Here is everything an employee needs to know about California Labor Code 201: Payment of Wages.

This Code requires an employer to make an immediate payment of all wages earned by a discharged employee regardless of the nature of termination, whether it be voluntary or involuntary. Termination of employment is defined by California Labor Code 201.5 as the end of an employment relationship whether it be by discharge, lay off, resignation, completion of employment for a specified term, or otherwise. Payment of wages by the employer must also include the employee’s accrued vacation time during their work history.

What Rights do Employees Have Under California Labor Code 201?

This Code was created to ensure the rightful payment of wages to employees at the time of termination. Any employee is entitled to request their payment by mail so long as they provide their employer with a valid address. Additionally, there are some specific cases of employment where certain employees may find that their regulations for wage payment may differ:

  • Employees who work within the field of motion pictures and are subjugated to uncertain times of employment or layoffs because of the nature of that field are entitled to individualized computation of wages.
    • This special computation is enacted with the goal of correctly determining how much the employee has earned. The amount determined must be paid by the next regular pay period.
    • The wage payment to employees in this field may be mailed to the employee or provided at a location within the same county where the employee was hired or performed labor.
  • An employee who works within the field of oil drilling and is laid off must be paid within 24 hours after discharge, only excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. This is protected by California Labor Code Section 201.7.
  • An employee who works at a venue that hosts live concerts or events and is a part of a regular short-term employment system that is established with respect to a collective bargaining agreement is entitled to the limits of this agreement for the payment of their wages at the time of discharge California Labor Code Section 201.9.
  • An employee without a written employment contract for a definite period of time who resigns without giving their employer at least 72 hours of notice must be paid all of their wages, including any accrued vacation time, within 72 hours of resignation (California Labor Code Section 202).

What Constitutes as a Violation of the California Labor Code 201?

California Labor Code 203 defines an employer’s failure to pay their employee without abatement or reduction as a violation of Labor Code 201. Employers are subject to severe financial consequences if they fail to pay an employee on their regular payday:

  • The first violation for failure to pay an individual employee is $100 for the employer.
  • Every additional violation for one employee amounts to a $200 fine for the employer.

Additionally, an employer will be charged with a financial penalty if they intentionally or willingly fail to pay their employee at their regular pay time.

  • The penalty for the employer is $200 plus 25% of the amount that was withheld.
  • The employer or company is legally required to pay an employee’s wages on their regular payday regardless if there is a “good faith dispute” about how much is owed to the employee.

Furthermore, Labor Code 203 also states that the wages of this employee shall continue to be paid at their regular rate as a penalty from the initial due date until payment is completed by the employer. However, the financial penalties may not exceed more than 30 days.

It is important to note that the employee is also subject to a violation under Labor Code 203, and is not entitled to any financial compensation if said employee is actively avoiding or hindering the employer’s attempts to pay them.

Related: California Labor Code Section 203: Waiting Time Penalty

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