Bill Ensuring Timely Pay for UC Workers Approved by Governor

SB 698 Supported by Education and Labor Organizations

Friday, October 4, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) to require the University of California (UC) to follow the same rules as private employers and encourage university administrators to prioritize the accurate, timely and fair payment of their employees was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Starting in September 2018, hundreds of low-wage workers at UC worked for many weeks without a paycheck. This delay in wages was the result of the poor implementation of the UCPath payroll system. The consequences of missed, late or incorrect paychecks were devastating for workers, many of whom were directed to food pantries by administrators while the University failed to pay wages.

“Workers everywhere—including at the University of California—deserve to always get paid correctly and on time,” Senator Leyva said.  “There is absolutely no reason why a public employer, especially since private employers are already required to do so, should be exempt from timely pay requirements.  SB 698 will ensure that primarily low-wage workers at the UC are paid promptly so that they do not have to wonder how they will pay their bills, keep a roof over their head or food on the table because their paychecks are late.  With Governor Newsom’s signature of SB 698, California stands firmly on the side of workers and will continue to fight wage theft whenever and wherever it occurs.”

Section 204 of the Labor Code guarantees workers the right to be paid on time, and in doing so, California law recognizes late paychecks as a form of wage theft. The Labor Commissioner adjudicates charges of wage theft, and wages and damages are awarded to workers for a successful decision. An employer who denies its employees their right to timely payment is also subject to damages and civil penalties, which are deposited into the state’s General Fund. 

Under Section 220 of the Labor Code, UC is exempt from the timely payment rules that govern employers in the private sector. This exemption effectively makes wage theft legal at UC because the University is not required to follow the rules laid out in Section 204.  SB 698 will end that outrageous reality by eliminating the exemption of UC workers from Section 204 of the California Labor Code.

Cosponsored by California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and UAW Local 2865, SB 698 earned strong bipartisan support in both the Senate and Assembly prior to being signed into law.  The measure was also supported by AFSCME Local 3299, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, California School Employees Association, California State Council of Service Employees, University of California Student Association, among others.