Now that it is September and kids are back at school, it is time for a multiple choice quiz on reporting time pay, an issue that causes much confusion to California employers, and one that my colleagues have blogged about before (link). Thanks to a recent Court of Appeal decision, Aleman v. Airtouch Cellular, the rules just got a little bit easier to understand, or maybe not.

First, let’s review the rule in Section 5(a) of the Wage Orders: "Each workday an employee is required to report for work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than half said employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee shall be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two (2) hours nor more than four (4) hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay, which shall not be less than the minimum wage.” 

Now for the Quiz:

Question #1: Emily Employee works full-time Monday through Friday, and is scheduled to come in on Saturday for a 1.5 hour mandatory meeting. The meeting lasts for 1 hour. How much must she be paid?

  1. 1 hour
  2. 2 hours
  3. 4 hours
  4. 8 hours

Answer: (a) 1 hour. According to the new Aleman decision, since Emily worked over half of her scheduled shift (1 of the 1.5 hours scheduled), the 2-hour minimum pay requirement does not apply. Note, if you answered (b) 2 hours, you would have been consistent with the DLSE’s view, which was not endorsed by the Court of Appeal.

Question #2: Edward Employee also works full-time Monday through Friday, and has been suspended pending investigation for misconduct. His manager calls him and tells him to come in for a meeting on Monday at 10:00 am that is expected to last no more than 2 hours. Edward shows up and is promptly fired and handed his last paycheck. The meeting lasts less than 5 minutes. How much must he be paid for that meeting?

  1. 1 hour
  2. 2 hours
  3. 4 hours
  4. 8 hours

Answer: (b) 1 hour. According to a published decision from last year, Price v. Starbucks, because this meeting was scheduled, Edward need only be paid for half of the scheduled shift. The 2-hour minimum does not apply. Nor does Edward need not be paid 4 hours, half of his regularly scheduled shift, because he did not show up expecting to work a full schedule, he was only called in for a scheduled meeting of not more than 2 hours.

Question #3: Same facts as #2, but it is not specified how long the meeting may last, or whether Edward will be returning to work after the meeting. How much must he be paid for the meeting?

  1. 1 hour
  2. 2 hours
  3. 4 hours
  4. 8 hours

Answer: (c) 4 hours. Here, it wasn’t clear to Edward if he was being called in to work his regularly scheduled shift after the meeting or not. Under these facts, it would be safest to pay him 4 hours, or half of his regularly scheduled shift.

Question #4: Same facts as #2, but Edward Employee’s manager calls him on Monday and simply says to stop by at any time for a “talk.” Edward Employee comes in on Monday at 10:00 am and is promptly fired and handed his last paycheck. The meeting lasts less than 5 minutes. How much must he be paid for that meeting?

  1. 1 hour
  2. 2 hours
  3. 4 hours
  4. 8 hours

Answer: (b) 2 hours. Here Edward knew he wasn’t coming in to work, he picked the time. But he also didn’t know how long the meeting would last. So the 2-hour minimum would apply.

What are the take-aways for employers? If you aren’t sure what to pay, and want to be totally safe, then always pay 4 hours (or half of the employee’s regularly scheduled shift). However, if you are clear with the employee that she is only coming in for a meeting of not more than 2 hours, then you can pay 2 hours -- or 1 hour if the meeting is less than an hour -- or the actual time of the meeting if it is between 1 and 2 hours.

Reporting time pay clarified – maybe not!