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California’s Labor Code provides extensive regulations designed to prevent abusive labor practices. The law provides for overtime compensation, rest breaks, payment periods, and various other provisions designed to protect the health, safety and economic interests of employees.

Wage Payment Rules

The California Supreme Court has declared a strong public policy for the prompt payment of wages. Kerr’s Catering Service v. Dep’t of Industrial Relations (1962) 57 Cal.2d 319, 326. Even if an employee quits unexpectedly, the employer is responsible to pay all wages owed to the worker within a very short period.

“Wages” are the amount paid as compensation for labor and may include much more than the worker’s periodic pay. An employee’s “wages” or “earnings” are the amount the employer has offered or promised to pay, or has paid pursuant to such an offer or promise, as compensation for that employee’s labor. The employer takes a “deduction” or “contribution” from an employee’s “wages” or “earnings” when it subtracts, withholds, sets off, or requires the employee to return, a portion of the compensation offered, promised, or paid as offered or promised, so that the employee, having performed the labor, actually receives or retains less than the paid, offered, or promised compensation, and effectively makes a forced “contribution” of the difference. Prachasaisoradej v. Ralph’s Grocery Co. Inc. (2007) 42 Cal.4th  217, 228.

Wages include other benefits such as vacation and bonus pay. See Schachter v. Citigroup, Inc. (2009) 47 Cal. 4th 618; Wise v. Southern Pacific Co. (1970), 1 Cal. 3d 600. Vacation pay is treated as other forms of wages and is due within 72 hours of termination (Labor Code section 201-202).