Marble Surface

Unpaid Wages

Unpaid wages are wages that have been earned (the employee performed work-related tasks) but have not been compensated.  A shortlist of examples includes: checking work emails outside of working hours, making/taking work-related phone calls outside of working hours, screening process before checking in/out in which the employee is not compensated.


Employees should keep track of all time spent performing off-the-clock tasks to ensure that they are properly compensated.  If the employer knows or should know that the employee is performing work, the employee is entitled to compensation.       

California Minimum Wage Requirements


  • $12 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $13 / hr (26 or more employees)



  • $11 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $12 / hr (26 or more employees)


  • $10.50 / hr (25 or fewer employees)

  • $11 / hr (26 or more employees)     



  • $10 / hr (25 or fewer employees)     

  • $10.50 / hr (26 or more employees)

Overtime Issues

Generally, if an employee works more than 40 hours a week, more than 8 hours a day, or 7 days in a row, he or she may be entitled to overtime pay. Employees who are salary, hourly, or piecework may be entitled to overtime pay. 

Final Paycheck Requirements

What are Unpaid Wages?

Employees who are discharged must be paid all wages due at the time of termination. (Labor Code § 201). “All wages” include any earned, but unused vacation pay. (Labor Code § 227.3). There is no requirement under California law that an employer pay accrued sick leave upon termination. An employer must pay a discharged employee at the place of discharge. (Labor Code § 208).

An employee who does not have a written agreement for a definite period of employment and who quits without giving prior notice must be paid his or her wages within 72 hours. If the employee gives at least 72 hours notice of his or her intention to quit, those wages must be paid at the time of quitting. An employee who quits must be paid at the office or agency of the employer in the county where the employee worked. An employee who quits without 72 hours notice may request that his or her final wage payment be mailed to a designated address. The date of mailing will be considered the date of payment. (Labor Code § 202).

An employer who willfully fails to pay any wages due to an employee who is discharged or quits within the time frames provided under the above Labor Codes may be assessed continuing wages as a penalty from the date the wages were due up to a maximum of 30 days. (Labor Code § 203). The penalty is calculated by multiplying the daily wage rate of the employee by 30 days. Penalties under Labor Code § 203 may be avoided if the employer can show that a good-faith dispute existed concerning whether any wages were due. A “good-faith” dispute means that the employer’s defense, based on law or fact, if successful, would preclude any recovery on part of the employee.

Even if there is a dispute, the employer must pay, without requiring a release, whatever wages are due and not in dispute. If the employer fails to pay what is undisputed, the “good faith” defense will be defeated whatever the outcome of the disputed wages. (Labor Code § 206).