• May 13, 2024
  • Wage & Hour

Can an Employer Withhold Pay as Punishment?

can an employer withhold pay as punishment?

Attorney advertisement by Edwin Aiwazian of Lawyers For Justice, PC, headquartered at 410 Arden Avenue, Glendale, CA 91203

California employers generally cannot withhold pay as punishment. The state and federal laws require employers to pay employees for all hours worked at their agreed-upon rate. Any deductions from an employee’s pay must be legally justified, such as for taxes, court-ordered wage garnishments, or other authorized deductions like health insurance premiums or retirement contributions.

California’s labor laws also specify that an employer cannot withhold or “dock” an employee’s pay for disciplinary reasons or as a form of punishment. Doing so would likely violate the state’s labor regulations.

If an employer withholds pay as punishment in California without a legally valid reason, it may be considered a violation of state labor laws, and employees would have recourse through filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or seeking assistance from an employment attorney.

Employee Paycheck Rights


In California, employees have several rights regarding their paychecks, which are protected under state labor laws. Some key rights include:

  1. Timely Payment: Employers must pay employees for all hours worked on the regular payday, which is typically at least twice a month for most employees. For manual laborers, the pay period cannot exceed seven days, excluding Sundays and holidays.
  2. Itemized Pay Statements: Employees must receive an itemized pay statement (also known as a wage statement or pay stub) with each paycheck. This statement should include information such as gross wages earned, hours worked, deductions, net wages, the dates of the pay period, and the employee’s name and address.
  3. Minimum Wage: California has its own minimum wage rates, which are higher than the federal minimum wage. Employers must pay employees at least the applicable minimum wage rate for all hours worked.
  4. Overtime Pay: Non-exempt employees in California are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime pay is typically one and a half times the regular rate of pay.
  5. Meal and Rest Breaks: California labor laws require employers to provide meal and rest breaks to employees based on the number of hours worked. Generally, employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break for shifts of more than 5 hours and rest breaks of 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
  6. Final Paycheck: When an employee is terminated or quits, their employer must provide their final paycheck immediately if they were terminated, or within 72 hours if they quit. This final paycheck should include all wages owed, including any accrued but unused vacation time.
  7. Reimbursement of Expenses: Employers are generally required to reimburse employees for necessary business expenses incurred in the course of their employment.

These are some of the fundamental paycheck rights afforded to employees in California. However, there may be additional rights and protections depending on the specific circumstances and industry. Employees who believe their paycheck rights have been violated should consider seeking guidance from the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or consulting with an employment attorney.

Is Docking Pay Illegal? – FAQ

how long can an employer not pay you? Withholding pay generally goes against the Fair Labor Standards Act because employers should be paying employees within a reasonable timeframe. If an employee’s paycheck is late, the employer could face waiting time penalties.

can an employer reduce your pay? Typically bosses have the right to reduce employee pay, however, workers must earn at least minimum wage. If the employee wages were reduced out of retaliation or discrimination, however, the the employee may be able to pursue legal action. They should contact the attorneys at Lawyers for Justice, PC today.

can an employer cut your hours as punishment? If you do not have an employment contract, your employer might be able to legally reduce your work hours or cut pay.

can an employer cut your pay without notice? Usually, California employers are required to give employees notice before cutting wages. This notice can be written or verbal, but it needs to be clear what the new pay rate will be and when it will start. However, employers typically can’t retroactively cut your pay for work you’ve already done.

can a job withhold your paycheck? If an employer isn’t paying employees on time, or is withholding an employee’s wages, the employee can file a wage claim to recover the money owed to them. When in doubt, they should contact an employment lawyer to help them navigate the process so they can retrieve the maximum amount of money owed.

can my employer take money from my wages for mistakes? Typically, an employer cannot legally make a deduction from an employee’s wages due to an employee’s mistake, a cash shortage, or if a loss of company property occurs.

can my employer deduct tips from my paycheck? Under California Labor Code 351 LC, tips are the property of the employee to whom they are paid. An employer may not take any part of an employee’s tips or gratuities for themselves, or deduct any amount from a worker’s wages due to the tips they’ve received.

can a salary employee be docked pay? California law forbids docking an employee’s pay for any reason.

is docking pay legal? In California, an employee works “At Will.” Because of this, your employer cannot punish an employee by docking his pay for poor performance.

can an employer hold your check over uniforms? The Fair Labor Standards Act does not allow uniforms to be included as wages. An employer cannot count uniforms toward paying an employee minimum wage or overtime.

is unpaid labor illegal? California law requires workers to be paid for the work they perform, except under limited circumstances. Contact LFJ today if you have not been paid properly.

Attorney advertisement by Edwin Aiwazian of Lawyers For Justice, PC, headquartered at 410 Arden Avenue, Glendale, CA 91203

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