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Talking About What Matters to Employees

Decipher Your Paystub

understanding-paystubCalifornia has very stringent laws regarding when and how employees must be paid.  To make sure the laws aren’t ignored, employers are required to provide lots of information on paystubs. But do you really understand all the information you are receiving?

Let’s start with the basics.  In California, employees must be paid at least twice during each calendar month, on days that are designated in advance as regular paydays. You must be paid no later than the 26th day of the month for wages earned between the 1st and the 15th of each month, and no later than the 10th of the following month, for wages earned between the 16th and the last day of the preceding month. That means a 10-to-25-day delay between when you earn your money and when you get it.  By the time the paycheck arrives, you are probably more interested in getting to the bank than pouring over the information on the paystub.

Understanding the information presented in the paystub can be quite a challenge, but it is worth the effort to figure out whether you’ve been properly paid for all of the hours you’ve worked.  The following is a quick primer on how to read your paystub.

The top of the paystub is pretty self-explanatory. It should have your name and address and your employee number/ID (if you have one).There may be information regarding your number of deductions.  Sometimes, the top of the paystub also shows your hourly rate, which you should definitely check for accuracy.

The next part of your paystub (which may appear below, or to the right of your name) lists your earnings for the pay period.  The first entry will be for your regular hours, and will show the number of hours and the rate per hour.  Regular hours are the hours you work at your regular rate of pay.  If you are entitled to overtime, the regular hours should never add up to more than 40 each week.  Remember that after 40 hours a week (or 8 hours in a day), you should probably be earning at the overtime rate.

The next entry is for non-standard hours (such as training, overtime, holiday pay, etc.).  Like the regular hours section, this area should show the number of hours and the rate per hour.  It is very important to check the rate of pay for these hours, because the most common error on paychecks is that employees are not paid properly for non-standard hours, particularly when it comes to overtime.  Overtime is generally 1.5 times the regular hourly rate.  If you worked weekends or holidays, it goes up to twice the regular hourly rate.

Your paystub should also include a summary of your pay for the year to date. This may appear in the same section as the description of your in this period, or in a separate area.

There is also a part of your paystub that reflects all deductions from your paycheck.  Typically, these deductions are for taxes, including federal income taxes, state income taxes, social security, Medicare, and California disability insurance.  If any portion of your wages are being garnished (to pay, for example, child support or a legal judgment), this portion of your paystub also includes information regarding the garnishment.

When you get your paystub, you should review it carefully.  And, if you have a question about anything on the stub, ask your employer for an explanation!  If you have not been compensated for all of your hours, it is time to talk to a lawyer.  You worked hard for your pay and not only are you entitled to understand your paystub, you are entitled to be paid fairly and fully for your work.

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