Reporting Time Pay in California – Explained

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Did you know that if you show up to your regularly scheduled shift at work and get sent home early, you might be entitled to additional compensation?

Reporting time pay, sometimes called “show-up pay” or the minimum shift rule, requires California employers to pay employees who report to work but are sent home before completing their shift. Because many employees don’t work consistent schedules, this rule attempts to protect employees from their employer’s last-minute schedule changes, which can drastically affect a worker’s income.

Unfortunately, many employees and employers alike remain unaware of the reporting time pay law—and countless employees throughout California remain wrongfully underpaid.

If you think you may be have been denied your rightful wages, an attorney can best assess your case. First, let’s discuss California law surrounding reporting time pay to make sure you’re receiving the wages you’re owed.

What Is Reporting Time Pay in California?

California’s reporting time pay law requires employees get paid if they show up to work, even if they don’t work a full shift. The statute codifying California reporting time pay regulations can be found in California’s pay law IWC Order 1-16, Section 5.

While this law is sometimes referred to as a “four-hour minimum shift law,” this title is a bit misleading, as the law doesn’t require a minimum of four hours of pay.

When a California employee reports to work but is given less than half of their scheduled day’s work, the law requires their employer to compensate the worker for half of their regularly scheduled shift, at their regular rate of pay. This compensation shall be no less than two hours of pay, and no more than four.

If a worker reports to work for the second time in a workday and is sent home after less than two hours, the worker is entitled to two hours of reporting time pay at their regular rate.

To better illustrate this, let’s look at an example. Say you’re scheduled to work a six-hour shift at a department store. If you arrive at the store, clock in, and work an hour before your employer sends you home due to lack of work, you’re still entitled to three hours of pay—one for the hour you worked, and two additional hours of reporting time pay.

If you show up to this same shift and your employer sends you home before you clock in, you’re still entitled to three hours of pay—half of your scheduled six-hour shift.

What Counts as “Reporting for Work” Under California’s Reporting Time Pay Law?

Courts have recognized several scenarios as sufficient “reporting for work,” for purposes of calculating reporting time pay:

  • Physically showing up to work when your shift begins.
  • Logging into your device for remote work.
  • Calling in before the start of your shift.
  • Starting out on your job’s driving route.

What is My “Regular Rate of Pay?”

California law distinguishes between a person’s “regular rate” and “base rate” of pay.

Your base rate is your regular hourly wage, not including any tips, bonuses, or other payments.

On the other hand, your regular rate includes your base rate of pay plus any shift differentials, bonuses, commissions, nondiscretionary pay, and more. This amount is usually calculated by adding up your total compensation with any additional payments, and dividing by the total amount of hours worked.

In cases where you receive reporting time pay, your employer is required to compensate you at your regular rate, not your base rate. Visit our blog article to learn more about your regular rate of pay.

Exceptions to Reporting Time Pay in California

As with most laws, there are exceptions. Not every day of unexpected missed work requires your employer to pay you reporting time pay:

  • If you leave your shift early on your own accord, you’re not entitled to reporting time pay. For example, if you aren’t feeling well within the first hour of your shift and decide to leave, your employer does not owe you reporting time pay.
  • Acts of God, including wildfires, earthquakes, and storms, may interrupt an employer’s operations and prevent the employee from working a full shift. However, because the situation is out of the employer’s control, they do not owe the employee reporting time.
  • Unexpected utility failures, such as power outages, are also an exception to the reporting time requirement.
  • If work cannot continue due to a threat to employees or property, or when recommended by civil authorities, the employer does not owe the employee reporting time pay.

Reporting Time Pay for Meetings

An interesting exception to California’s reporting time pay requirement is for work meetings. For meetings scheduled in advance that require your presence, you’re not necessarily entitled to reporting time pay if the session ends early, but you might be able to recover part of it.

According to a California Appellate Court decision, where meetings have been scheduled in advance, you are entitled to reporting time pay only if the meeting lasts for less than half the scheduled time.

So if you have to show up for a meeting on a day you’re not otherwise scheduled to work, and the meeting is scheduled for two hours but lasts only 45 minutes, you’re entitled to reporting time pay for two hours. If the two-hour meeting lasts 90 minutes, you’re only entitled to pay for 90 minutes.

While this exception is less common, it’s an incredibly complex one. If you’re unsure whether you’re entitled to reporting time pay, speak with a California employment attorney.

Covid-19 and Reporting Time Pay in California

What if you report to work and are sent home due to Covid-19? If you show up to work without knowing you’re positive and your employer sends you home because you have symptoms, couldn’t they argue that the situation is beyond their control and forgo paying you for reporting time?

The California Department of Industrial Relations has released an influential FAQ on this subject. While it doesn’t specifically address the situation where an employee is sent home because they have Covid symptoms, the FAQ suggests that any employee who “reports for their regularly scheduled shift but is required to work fewer hours or is sent home” would be entitled to reporting time pay.

The distinction here might rest with who decides to end the shift early. If you leave voluntarily, then you may not be entitled to reporting time pay. But if your employer sends you home before the end of your shift for showing symptoms, they would probably be required to pay you reporting time.

What to Do If Your Employer Won’t Pay You Reporting Time

Knowing your rights is vital to ensuring you get paid when you’re supposed to. If you read this article and find that your employer may have failed to pay your reporting time, you may be a victim of wage theft. If this is the case, it may be time to speak with an attorney.

Claims to recover lost wages can be very complex, and your employer may respond negatively when you exercise your right to fair wages against them. A seasoned employment attorney can not only protect you from illegal retaliation, but can also file a wage and hour claim to recover the back pay you’re owed.

PARRIS employment attorneys have protected thousands of California employees from wage theft and employee rights violations. We offer free employment legal consultations to individuals looking to protect their rights from their employers. Whether you work for a small business or a massive corporation, we’re here to fight for your rights.

Speak to a legal advisor today about your options.

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If you need immediate assistance, please call our office at (661) 464-0745 and ask to speak with someone in our Intake Department available 24/7.

Alex Wheeler - PARRIS Law Firm Attorney Speaking with a Client - Legal Consultation

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