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ca labor code 210
May 29, 2024

California Labor Code 210 Overview & Example Scenarios

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

California Labor Code 210 imposes a penalty onto employers for failing to pay their employees on time. Initial violations of this code impose a $100 penalty, while subsequent or intentional violations impose a $200 penalty plus 25% of the amount withheld through nonpayment.

California Labor Code 210 Explained in 90 Seconds

As mentioned, California Labor Code 210 primarily provides a penalty for employers that do not pay their employees on time. This penalty is separate from any other penalty created by California Labor Codes.

For the first violation by the employer (the first time they fail to pay an employee), the employer is penalized $100 per employee not paid on time. If the employer intentionally withheld the wages, the penalty increases to $200. Every violation after the first is also worth $200 in penalties to the employer. In the latter two situations (intentional withholding or violation beyond the first), 25% of the amount withheld is also added as a penalty.

These penalties can be collected by the employee as a statutory penalty or by the Labor Commissioner as a civil penalty through a citation. Labor Code 210 connects the procedures for enforcing and receiving the penalty to existing ones under Section 1197.1. Finally, the penalty provided by California Labor Code 210 cannot be collected with the civil penalty provided by California Labor Code 1197.1 involving failure to pay an employee the minimum wage.

Understanding Late Payment Penalties

Understanding the late payment penalties created by California Labor Code 210 is very important for employees. The penalty is triggered when an employer fails to pay their employee on the employee’s scheduled payday. The first time this happens, or the “initial violation”, the penalty is $100 for the employer. On each subsequent violation, or if the payment was intentionally withheld, the penalty increases to $200 plus 25% of the withheld amount.

How Much are the Penalties?

As mentioned, the penalties begin at $100 for the first failure to pay an employee on their scheduled payday. This penalty is per-employee, meaning an employer who fails to pay five employees on their paydays would incur $500 total in penalties. It is important to remember that these penalties go to the employees, so in the previous example, each of the five employees would receive $100.

On a willful offensive, meaning the employer purposefully withheld the wages from the employee, the penalty increases to $200 per employee plus 25% of the withheld amount. For example, if an employer purposefully did not pay an employee whose paycheck would have been $500, the penalty would be $200 (from the intentional withholding) plus $125 (25% of $500, the employee’s withheld paycheck) for a total of $325.

Who Can File for Penalties?

Under California Labor Code 210, employees file for these penalties as they are the ones who receive them (as opposed to the state receiving them). The penalty can be recovered as a statutory penalty or by the Labor Commissioner as a civil penalty. In the latter situation, a citation will likely be issued to the employer. Otherwise, the procedures for enforcing the California Labor Code 210 penalty can be found in Section 1197.1 of the Labor Code.

Alternatively, an employee can pursue civil penalties created by California Labor Code 210 by bringing an action against their employer according to California Labor Code 2699.

How to Claim the Penalty

Employees generally have two options to claim the penalty provided by Labor Code 210. Their first option is to file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner and California’s Division for Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). Filing can be done online on the DLSE’s website, through the mail, through e-mail, or in person. Some documentation and information will be required to best process your claim, usually including time records, paychecks and paystubs, basic employment information, and information about your employer like name and address.

An employee’s other option for claiming the penalty is to pursue a private lawsuit against their employer. This involves seeking out legal representation, gathering documentation and information, and then bringing an action. Employees should pay special attention to the amount of time between not being paid and when they bring a lawsuit: such claims typically have a statute of limitations period of one year, meaning a year after the employer refused to pay, a lawsuit can no longer be brought.

Important Considerations

There are some circumstances where California Labor Code 210 may not apply. One of these is if an employee takes steps to avoid being paid on their scheduled payday. In such a situation, it would be improper to impose a penalty assuming the employer tried to pay the employee on time. In general, it is important to keep good records of payment to ensure that an employer can be held responsible for failing to pay an employee on time.

Example Scenarios

Example 1: Employer Fails to Pay Employee Accidentally

  • Scenario: A fast-food worker is paid a day late by his employer. The employer did not pay him late intentionally, but still failed to pay him on time. They claim that because it was an accident, they do not have to pay the penalty.
  • Violation: Late payment of wages.
  • How Labor Code 210 Protects: Labor Code 210 provides a penalty for such situations, which will be $100 against the employer and given to the employee. The fact that the employer only accidentally failed to pay the employee means the penalty will be $100 instead of $200 plus 25% of the withheld amount.

Example 2: Employer Intentionally Refuses to Pay Employee

  • Scenario: A restocker at a grocery store is paid three days later than her scheduled payday. She overhears her managers talking about how they did this on purpose because they don’t like the restocker and paid her late to induce her quitting. The employee’s paycheck would have been $600.
  • Violation: Intentional late payment of wages.
  • How Labor Code 210 Protects: In this situation, the employer has intentionally withheld the employee’s wages past the scheduled day of payment. The penalty will therefore be $200 plus 25% of the withheld paycheck, in this case $150. The final penalty assessed against the employer will therefore be $350.

Example 3: Employee Purposefully Makes Their Paycheck Unpayable on the Scheduled Date

  • Scenario: A donut shop cashier purposefully avoids being paid on his scheduled payday by disconnecting his bank account information from the direct deposit index and refusing to answer calls from his employer. He then attempts to enforce a Labor Code 210 penalty for late payment of wages against the donut shop.
  • Violation: Intentional avoidance of being paid wages on time by employee.
  • How Labor Code 210 Protects: In this case, California Labor Code 210 will not impose a penalty on the employer because the employee made active efforts to avoid being paid on time. Labor Code 210 is designed to protect employees from misconduct on the part of their employers, not provide a blanket penalty for all failures to be paid on time.

Resources for Employers and Employees

  1. California Labor Code 210
  2. California Labor Code 2699
  3. California Department of Industrial Relations – Labor Commissioner’s Office
  4. California Department of Industrial Relations – How to File a Wage Claim
  5. California Department of Industrial Relations – Required Documentation for a Wage Claim

Connect with an Attorney

California’s labor laws are designed to protect employees from misconduct on the part of their employers, whether it be intentional or unintentional. In the case of California Labor Code 210, employers failing to pay their employees on time creates a penalty that the employee can pursue and receive. If you are an employee who has been paid later than your scheduled time, you can likely file a claim against them to recover the penalty.

LawLinq can connect you with an experienced employment law attorney to guide you through your claim and get you the compensation you deserve. Failing to receive your paycheck on time is often a stressful experience: allow us to help relieve that stress by representing you to the best of our ability by contacting us today!

About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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