Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.
What you describe is absolutely illegal
. An employee is entitled to payment of his or her final wages within 72 hours of giving their notice of intent to quit or immediately upon the employee's separation of employment, whichever date is later. (Labor Code 201) Failure to pay a departing employee's final wages consistent with Labor Code 201 will typically result in the assessment of a penalty in the amount of the employee's daily rate of pay for each day the wages go unpaid up to 30 days. (Labor Code 203)
So for example, if an employee who makes $100 a day and quits with at least 72 hour's notice with his last day being November 1st, and isn't paid until the 20th, that employee would be entitled to $2,000 in penalty assessments on top of the wages actually owed.
The best way to deal with violations of Labor Code 201 is to file a wage claim with the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement. The DLSE takes such claims very seriously and will initiate an instigation. To file a wage claim with the DLSE, visit this link: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/howtofilewageclaim.htm
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Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.
Very best wishes and happy holidays to you.