California Laws for Final Paychecks 


Is it a voluntary or involuntary separation? 

California labor laws are very precise when it comes to an employee’s final check. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, there are two essential criteria that determine how, when and where employees receive their final paycheck. The employer must categorize the employee’s termination as either voluntary or involuntary. Once that has been determined, the following will rules apply:  

  • Paycheck is due immediately: Terminated or laid off employees must be paid all of their earned, unpaid wages, including accrued vacation, immediately at the time of their termination.  
  • Paycheck pickup location: The place of the final wage payment for employees who are terminated or laid off is designated as the site of termination.  



Paycheck is due immediately:  

  • Employee does NOT have a written employment contract for a specified time period. 
  • If the employee gives a 72-hour notice of their intended last day and quits on day specified 
  • Employee must be paid all of their earned wages and unpaid wages, including accrued vacation, at the time of quitting. 


Paycheck is due within 72 hours of quitting: 

  • If employee quits without giving a notice of at least 72 hours. 
  • Employee must be paid all of their earned wages, including accrued vacation.  
  • Employee does NOT have a written employment contract for a specified time period. 
  • The employee may request that their final payment be mailed to a designated address.  
  • The date of mailing is considered the date of payment.  


Paycheck pickup location:  

  • Employees who quit without giving a 72-hour notice, and who do not request that their final wages be mailed to them at a designated address can pick up their final paycheck at the office of the employer within the county in which the work was performed.  


  • Direct deposits that were previously authorized by the employee are immediately terminated when an employee quits or is discharged. 
  • Payment of wages upon termination of employment as described above applies unless the employee has voluntarily authorized the direct deposit and provided that the employer complies with the provisions of Labor Code Section 213(d) relating to the payment of wages upon termination of employment. 

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Agricultural-work related employees: 

  • Employees laid off by reason of seasonal termination of employment in the curing, canning or drying of any variety of perishable fruit, fish or vegetables must be paid within 72 hours after the layoff.  
  • Employees who request and assign a mailing address for final checks must receive their payment by mail.  


Motion picture or broadcasting employees: 

  • An employee engaged in the production or broadcasting of motion pictures is entitled to receive payment of wages earned and unpaid at the time of the termination by the next regular payday.  
  • Payment of wages may be mailed or made available to the employee at a location specified by the employer in the county where the employee was hired or performed labor.  
  • Payment is considered to have been made on the date the employees’ wages are mailed or made available to them at the location specified by the employer, whichever is earlier.  
  • Employment terminates when the employment relationship ends, whether by discharge, layoff, resignation, completion of employment for a specified term, or otherwise.  


Oil drilling employees: 

  • A laid off employee engaged in the business of oil drilling must be paid within 24 hours after discharge, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays.


Employees of live theatrical or concert events: 

  • If employees are employed at a venue that hosts live theatrical or concert events, and are enrolled in and routinely dispatched to employment through a hiring hall or other system of regular short-term employment established in accordance with a bona fide collective bargaining agreement, may establish in their collective bargaining agreement time limits for payment of wages to employees who are discharged or laid off.  



  • Employers who have uncashed checks on their accounts payable for terminated employees, for which all reasonable efforts to pay wages have been made, may send the non-negotiated checks with an explanation of efforts to contact the employee to their nearest office of the Labor Commissioner.  
  • The Labor Commissioner will make further efforts to locate the employee for payment of wages. If unsuccessful, the check(s) will be deposited into the State of California Unclaimed Wages Fund. 



  • Failure to pay wages due to a terminated employee (regardless of the reason for separation) in the prescribed time frame may result in a waiting penalty. 
  • This penalty amount is equal to the employees’ daily rate of pay for each day the wages remain unpaid, up to a maximum of 30 calendar days.  



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