Employees Required to Call in Before Shift Must Receive Pay

In a 2-1 ruling on February 4, 2019, a California Appeals Court ruled that requiring an employee call in two hours before a shift to see if they are needed must result in the employee receiving reporting time pay.

Reporting time pay is compensation that is required by California Wage Order 7 when a non-exempt employee reports to work but is either immediately sent home or given a shorter shift than originally scheduled. Prior to this case, “reporting to work” was understood to mean that the employee physically shows up at the workplace. The court last week, however, determined that an employee calling in to see if they need to show up for their shift also counts as reporting to work.

According to Wage Order 7, employees who report in for work (physically or, now, via phone) must be paid for half their usual or scheduled day’s work, but no less than two hours and no more than four hours. These hours should be paid at their regular rate of pay.

The court made it clear that not every instance of an employee checking their schedule would trigger reporting time pay. In this case, employees were required to call in just two hours in advance and subject to discipline if they didn’t; the court felt this clearly warranted pay. A different result may have been reached had employees been told to call in 12 hours in advance or to check a schedule posted online. Unfortunately, the court didn’t draw a line for employers.

In the words of the court, “on-call shifts burden employees, who cannot take other jobs, go to school, or make social plans during on-call shifts—but who nonetheless receive no compensation . . . unless they ultimately are called in to work. This is precisely the kind of abuse that reporting time pay was designed to discourage.”

We recommend that employers who have employees call in to verify shifts on the day-of either change their scheduling practices to eliminate the need to call in or budget for reporting time pay.

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