Pay stub & payroll information requirements under California law.

Every California employer has a legal duty to keep accurate payroll records for all employees. Clear and informative earnings statements are essential to ensuring workers are paid for all their hard work. Employers that do not follow strict recordkeeping rules provided by California's Labor Code may face significant penalties.

This post explores several common issues in employer payroll record keeping. It also explores remedies that employees may have available for faulty pay stubs.

What information must be included in a California employee’s pay stub?

Under California Labor Code 226, subdivision (a), every employer must provide the following information on every itemized wage pay stub. Employees whose rights are violated are entitled to $50 for the initial erroneous pay period and $100 for each subsequent erroneous pay period, up to a total of $4,000. ((Labor Code, § 226, subd. (e).)) It does not matter if an employer mistakenly forgot to include the information. ((Heritage Residential Care, Inc. v Div. of Labor Standards Enforcement (2011) 192 Cal.App.4th 75.))

  • The employee’s name and last four digits of their social security number.
  • Dates for which the employee is being paid.
  • Gross wages earned.
  • The hourly rate that the employee is being paid at.
  • The total hours worked.
  • All deductions made.
  • Any reimbursement made for employee expenses.
  • The net wages earned after all deductions.
  • The employer’s name and address.

Recovery for violations of California employment law

An employee who receives an incorrect or miscalculated pay stub may recover any money owed to them due to the error. This can include:

  • Unpaid salary amounts not on the pay stub.
  • Unpaid overtime.
  • Unpaid rest breaks.
  • A civil penalty.
  • Their court costs and attorney’s fees for correcting the employer's error.

How long does a California employer need to keep my records?

Employers in California must keep the records of names and addresses of all employees and daily hours worked and wages paid for at least 2 years. ((Labor Code, § 226, subd. (a).)) If wage deductions are made, your employer must keep the records for at least 3 years. ((Id.))

Can I see my employee records to see if there have been payroll mistakes or other wage recording problems?

Yes. Employers are required by California law to provide current employees and former employees with copies of their payroll records within 21 days after their request to inspect or copy their payroll records. ((Labor Code, § 226, subds. (c), (f), (g).))

Employers that do not allow their employees or former employees to examine their records may be fined $750 and face a lawsuit to obtain their payroll records. Employees that bring this kind of lawsuit are permitted to recover litigation costs and attorney fees they spend. ((Labor Code, § 226, subd. (h).)) Employees that decide to sue without payroll records are not disadvantaged in their lawsuit because the employer has the burden to counter employee's testimony. If the employer cannot counter the employee’s testimony, the employee may be awarded their claims. ((Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 687–688.))

Employees who later sue their employers or workplace for wage and hour violations can prove their case through their own testimony.

What can I do if I think my employment law rights have been violated?

If you think your employment law rights have been violated, you should immediately contact a Los Angeles or Orange County employment attorney to examine your case. Many employment law claims have a short statute of limitations and cannot be filed in court if you wait too long.

To determine whether your payroll and pay stub records are accurate, always keep your own time card records, records of your commission’s sales, or anything else for which you are compensated. This will help you compare your records with the pay stubs your employer provides you. Record keeping is never perfect and having your own records helps you locate any time card or pay stub errors.

To obtain your payroll records, you should send an e-mail or a letter requesting your records to your human resources department. Alternatively, an employment lawyer can also send a payroll records request on your behalf. If an employer does not show an employee their records or makes excuses for faulty or incorrect wage statements, this is often a strong sign that an employee’s rights have been violated and that an employee’s rights have been violated or they have not been completely paid for their work.

If you have questions about what is happening at your workplace, please call Optimum Employment Lawyers at (949) 954-8181 for a free and confidential consultation to determine your legal options.