WAGE & HOUR LAW: COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS

Am I entitled to employment benefits?
Unless you work for the government or are subject to a collective bargaining agreement, chances are that you have no legal entitlement to benefits beyond a paycheck, unless your particular employer decides to offer them.

If I work for a private employer, do I have any employee entitlements at all?
Again, your employer may offer particular benefits to certain groups of (or all) employees. If so, your acceptance of them may then become an obligation on your employer’s part to continue offering them. Beyond that, you are entitled to receive a minimum wage, a safe and healthy work environment, employment free from discrimination, and a job that does not require you to violate the law. Before accepting and beginning new employment, you should ask what benefits are being offered with the position.

What am I entitled to in terms of compensation and benefits if my employment ends?
You are entitled to receive all wages owed at or shortly after the end of your employment. What “wages” mean, however, can be complicated. For example, under most employment plans, Sick Time is not a “vested” benefit. In other words, accrued (but unused) Sick Time is rarely paid out upon termination of employment. Check with your employer (e.g., check your employee benefits handbook, if any) to see whether Sick Time benefits are offered and what your rights are to use/collect it. Similarly, find out if your employer offers Paid Time Off and whether it is a benefit that is paid out upon termination of employment; usually, it is not.

What about vacation pay?
Unlike Sick Time and Paid Time Off, vacation pay is always a vested benefit, once accrued. All unused vacation pay must, therefore, be paid out upon termination.

If I leave my job, when can I collect my vacation pay and final paycheck?
When you can collect your final paycheck (including vacation pay) depends on (1) whether your termination is voluntary (i.e., you “quit”) or involuntary (i.e., you are “fired”), and (2) if voluntary, how much advance notice of resignation you give. Except with regard to some forms of deferred compensation, stock options and retirement benefits, you are generally entitled to be paid upon termination, if it is involuntarily. If you quit, and give at least 72 hours notice, you are also entitled to receive your final pay (including vacation pay) on your last day worked (unless some other agreement is already in place). If you fail to give at least 72 hours notice of your resignation, your employer has 72 hours after you give notice of resignation within which to pay you.

If my final paycheck is late (or is never provided), what can I do?
First, contact the employer. It may be that a processing error occurred or the employer had an incorrect address on file for you, but has every intention of paying you. However, if it appears that your employer is withholding your final paycheck for hours worked or your vacation pay, you can file an action for payment. In that action, you can also collect a penalty of as many as 30 extra days of wages, a penalty over and above the amount of final pay that was withheld.


These questions and answers are for educational purposes only and cover just a few topics that are commonly of interest to workers. This material should not be construed as legal advice, the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, or as indicative of a particular outcome regarding any legal issue you might have.

Please also bear in mind that the information on this page relates mostly to laws governing employment with California private companies.