paystub violations california employee

Many California workers never look at their paystubs unless something seems off. But, your paystub contains important information that may tip you off that you aren’t receiving all the pay you’re entitled to. In fact, the California legislature considers this information so important that California employers that won’t issue paystubs may face penalties.

Understanding your paystub, what information must be included, and what to do if you don’t receive a paystub is key to protecting your right to fair compensation. Here’s what you need to know.

California Paystub Requirements

What Information Must Be Included on a California Paystub? 

California Labor Code §226 requires California employers to include the following information on paystubs:

  • The employee’s name
  • The last four digits of the employee’s Social Security number or other employee identification number
  • The employer’s name and address
  • Gross wages earned 
  • Beginning and ending dates for the pay period
  • Total hours worked (with limited exceptions, such as for exempt, salaried employees)
  • All applicable pay rates and the number of hours worked at each
  • The number of overtime hours worked on each date 
  • All payroll deductions, such as payroll taxes and uniform charges
  • Net wages earned 
  • The amount of sick time and/or vacation time accrued

For employees paid on a piece rate, the paystub must also include the number of units and the per-unit rate. Temporary service employers must also break out the hours worked and pay rates by assignment. 

What if My Employer Pays Cash Under the Table?

If your employer is paying cash off the books, that means the company isn’t paying payroll taxes on your behalf, and that you aren’t receiving Social Security and Medicare credit. It also almost certainly means that your employer is not paying for unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation on your behalf, and may have falsely led you to believe that you are not eligible for these protections. 

Your employer is breaking the law. Your employer may also be cheating you of other protections, such as minimum wage requirements and the right to be paid at a higher rate for overtime work.

Can My Employer Issue Digital Paystubs? 

Digital paystubs are increasingly common as more and more employers shift to direct deposit. But, your employer can’t require you to accept direct deposit. If you don’t agree to direct deposit, the employer must provide a paper check or other legally acceptable form of payment.

If the employer issues digital paystubs, whether or not in connection with direct deposit:

  • The digital paystub must contain all of the same information required for a hard-copy paystub
  • You must have access to your digital paystubs at all times, online and for free
  • If you ask for paper paystubs, your employer must provide them

How is Overtime Reflected on Paystubs?

Your California paystub must show overtime hours separately, and must include the specific dates you worked overtime hours. That’s important information, because the overtime rate of pay depends on both the number of hours you work in a particular day and how many days you have worked in a week. You are entitled to overtime pay when:

  • You work more than 8 hours in a day
  • You work more than 40 hours in a week
  • You work on a seventh day in a week

You’re entitled to a different, even higher rate of overtime pay if you work more than 12 hours in a day or more than 8 hours on the seventh day of the week. Make sure you are being paid correctly for overtime hours by checking our Guide to California Overtime Laws.

But, employers don’t always play fair with overtime pay. Monitoring your paystubs will help ensure that you get paid for all of your work, and get paid at the rate you deserve.

How Can I Use My Paystubs to Identify Wage Theft?

Not properly paying for overtime hours is just one type of wage theft. To be sure you are receiving fair pay, keep your own record of hours worked and break times, and check it against your paystub to make sure that you’re getting paid for every hour worked and getting paid at the correct rate. 

Another common type of wage theft that you can identify using your paystubs involves rest periods and meal breaks. If you work more than 3.5 hours, you’re entitled to one paid 10-minute rest break. If you work 6-10 hours, you’re entitled to a second. But some employers don’t allow these breaks, or deduct them from paid work time. By keeping track of your own hours and comparing them to your paystub, you will be able to tell whether your employer is paying you for your rest break.

Meal breaks may be unpaid, but there is an exception. If you’re in a job that makes it impossible for you to clock out for your meal break–for example, if you’re the only person working in a small retail store–then your employer must pay you for a full hour at your regular pay rate.

When Am I Entitled to Receive My Paycheck and Paystub?

Under the California Labor Code, most employees must be paid at least twice a month. The employer must assign pay dates in advance and give reasonable notice to employees regarding how and when they are going to get paid. Generally employees must be paid and receive their pay stubs according to these rules:

  • Wages earned between the 1st and 15th of the month must be paid on or before the 26th of the same month
  • Wages earned between the 16th and the last day of the month must be paid on or before the 10th of the following month. 

These rules only apply to hourly workers and does not apply to overtime pay. Employers can pay employees for any overtime pay during the next payroll period. Different rules also apply to union employees, subject to their collective bargaining agreement. If you are a union member, it’s important to consult with an experienced employment attorney as not all laws may apply.

Different rules also apply to exempt employees. Exempt employees are entitled to be paid and receive their paystubs once per month and must be paid on or before the 26th of the month. Any overtime worked by exempt employees must be paid by the 26th of the next month.  In some cases, employees may not be considered exempt under federal law, but are exempt under California law. If employees are exempt under California law, they must be paid within 7 days of the closing of the normal payroll period. 

If you are not being paid within the correct pay periods set by law, you could be entitled to compensation.

How Can I Get a Copy of My Paystubs? 

If your paystubs are digital, they must be available to you at all times. But, there may be times when you want or need to obtain copies of your paystubs from your employer. Under California law, your employer must keep copies of your paystubs for at least three years. If you request copies, your employer typically has up to 21 days to provide them. If your employer doesn’t provide them in the time allowed, the company may have to pay penalties.

What Kind of Penalties Do Employers Face if They Don’t Provide Paystubs?

If your employer won’t provide pay stubs with the required information, doesn’t give you paper paystubs when you request them, or doesn’t live up to its paystub obligations in some other way, they may have to pay penalties or actual damages. 

The standard penalty is $50 for the first paystub not provided and $100 for each paystub after, up to $4,000 per employee. To make sure that you can assert your rights, California law also requires an employer who has violated this law to pay the employee’s attorney fees. 

What Should I Do if My Paystubs Aren’t Right?

If you don’t receive paystubs, your paystubs don’t include the right information, you are not being paid during the correct pay periods, or you notice discrepancies on your paystubs that suggest that you’re not being paid for all of your hours or are not being compensated for rest periods or receiving the correct rate of overtime pay, it’s important to speak to an experienced employment attorney who can guide you through your options. At Whitehead Employment Law, protecting California workers is all we do, and we’ve recovered millions of dollars on behalf of employees like you. 

Our attorneys see cases all the time in which an employee consults us regarding an issue such as wrongful termination, rest and meal break violations, or discrimination, and after reviewing the employee’s paystubs, we find discrepancies and illegal issues with their paystubs. This allows us to seek additional compensation for you due to the pay stub violations. If you believe your paystubs are incorrect, or your employer has not paid you lawfully, call us at (949) 936-4001 or fill out a confidential case evaluation form today. Our consultations are always free.  

Whitehead Employment Law Represents Employees Across California

Whitehead Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have violated California labor laws.   

We take our cases on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid unless we win the case for you. We also front all the court costs and fees, and get paid our share out of the court verdict or settlement with the employer if we win the case, so you don’t pay anything out of pocket.

Contact Whitehead Employment Law today at 949-936-4001. Consultations are free and confidential.

    DISCLAIMER: This article does not provide legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.