Reporting time pay is one of the provisions of California wage and hour law that is often overlooked by employers.  The requirement to pay reporting time is set forth in Section 5 of all but one of the 17 Wage Orders, and it guarantees workers that they will be paid for at least half of their scheduled shift in the event they are sent home early.  It also provides for a minimum of two hours of pay for employees who are required to report to work for a second time in one workday.  The purpose of the provision is to discourage employers from deliberately over-staffing and then sending home excess workers without any pay.  Yet, many employers are unaware of these rules!

Common Examples: Under the reporting time regulation, if a worker is scheduled to work 8 hour days, but is sent home after working only 2 hours, she is entitled to an additional 2 hours of reporting time pay.  But, if she is sent home after four hours, she is only entitled to be paid for the time she actually worked, because the regulation only requires that the employee be provided with half of her usual or scheduled day’s work. 

Also, reporting time pay guarantees at least two, but no more than four, hours of pay in a single workday.  Therefore, an employee who is scheduled for only a three-hour shift is guaranteed two hours of pay, while an employee who works 12-hour shifts is only guaranteed four hours of pay.

Short and Sweet?  Employers Still Have to Pay: If an employee is unexpectedly called in to work without advance notice, then the employee is guaranteed at least two hours of reporting time pay.  Price v. Starbucks, 192 Cal. App. 4th 1136 (2011). 

  • When does this happen?  This type of situation may arise where an employee is called in for a disciplinary meeting on a day when she is not scheduled to work.  Even if the meeting lasts only long enough to tell the employee “you’re fired,” she is entitled to be provided with two hours of reporting time pay.  But, if the employee is fired at the beginning of a scheduled eight-hour shift, the employer still must pay her for four hours.

Note: The reporting time regulation does not provide employees with a right to a “minimum shift guarantee” of two hours every time they are required to report to work.   Employers may require employees to work for periods of less than two hours, and pay them only for time actually worked, as long as these work periods are scheduled in advance.  Aleman v. Airtouch Cellular,  209 Cal. App. 4th 556 (2012). 

  • When does this happen?  Short work periods may arise when employees are required to attend meetings on their days off, which happens often for businesses that operate seven days a week, like restaurants, retail stores and hospitals.  Of course, employers are still required to pay employees for at least half of the scheduled duration of these short work periods.

Employee Chooses to Take Off?  Employer Is Off the Hook!  It is important to note that employers are not required to provide reporting time pay to employees who leave work early of their own accord.  So, a worker who leaves early due to illness or to attend to a personal matter is only entitled to be paid for the time she actually worked.

Other Exceptions: Let’s hope you never encounter these situations, but reporting time pay is not required if work cannot commence because of threats to employees or property, or because of instruction from authorities, where there is a failure of public utilities to supply water, sewage, electricity, or gas, or where an “Act of God” prevents or interrupts work.

Workplace Solutions:  Through careful planning, employers can minimize the amount of reporting time pay they provide to their employees.  Take care when scheduling employees, so as not to overstaff and then send employees home for lack of work.  Try to schedule meetings when all or most employees will be at work anyway.  If employees are required to come in on their regular days off, be sure to schedule such events in advance, and let employees know how long they will last.  And when all else fails and employees are called in on their days off or are sent home early, be sure to have procedures in place to provide them with the proper reporting time pay.