How much notice must I give my employees that I’m canceling a shift in order to avoid paying reporting time?
Anytime an employee reports to work but is given less than half of the employee’s regular shift, the employer owes that employee reporting time pay.
The reporting time payment is equal to half of the scheduled or regular shift, no less than two hours and no more than four.
What ‘Reporting to Work’ Means Now
Traditionally, reporting time pay was required when an employee physically showed up to work and was sent home or given fewer than half the scheduled hours.
But as technology has advanced, and employees can check shift schedules online or via phone or text, it has become less clear what constitutes “reporting to work” so as to trigger reporting time pay.
For example, in a recent case, an employer that required its employees to call in two hours before the scheduled start of their shifts to determine whether they would be needed that day was ordered to pay reporting time pay if the employees were not given a shift. The court held that the act of calling in constituted “reporting” to work, even though the employees may never have left their houses.
This is because reporting time pay is designed not only to discourage employers from scheduling employees when there is insufficient work, but also to compensate employees for the costs of preparing to work (such as arranging child care, commuting, or turning down hours at other jobs).
If an employee learns immediately prior to leaving for work—or in the middle of a commute—that a shift has been canceled, that employee still will have incurred expenses related to preparing for work.
Some Local Requirements
Employers also should be aware that municipalities may set their own requirements for short notice changes to employee schedules; for example, some San Francisco retail workers are entitled to “predictability pay” of between one and four hours of regular wages when their schedule changes with less than a week’s notice.
However, absent requirements such as those in San Francisco, there is no specific number of hours of notice that an employer must give an employee to safely avoid paying reporting time pay. Employers should consult with counsel if they need to cancel shifts on short notice.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.