Although California employers have the discretion to control their scheduling needs and staffing requirements, the Labor Code imposes a limitation on their scheduling rights. An employer who fails to provide advance notice to an employee of scheduling changes can be required to pay for “reporting time.” Furthermore, California law imposes strict requirements on employers who adopt alternative workweek policies, and employers cannot adopt these policies without providing advance notice to their employees of their scheduling changes.
The California Industrial Welfare Commission adopted a wage order requiring employers to pay their employees for "reporting time" if they send them home for a lack of available work. The wage order requires that employers pay their employees for at least two hours of work.
The reporting time pay requirements are different for hourly employees who work regular shifts and are not notified of scheduling changes. An employee normally scheduled to work an eight-hour shift must receive at least a half-day of pay if he works less than half of his shift. Employers are required to pay their employees for half the hours they are normally scheduled to work. However, if his employer sends him home again in the same workday, his employer must pay him for another half-day or at least two hours for reporting to work.
An employer is excused from notifying his employees of scheduling changes in certain circumstance without paying them reporting time. An employer does not have to pay for reporting time during natural disasters, unforeseen civil commotions or when there is a lack of electricity, water or plumbing. Additionally, an employer does not have to pay an employee reporting time pay if he terminates the employee or if the employee is physically unfit to work. Furthermore, an employer does not have to pay an employee for a sudden scheduling change and reporting time if the nature of the employee’s job is unpredictable, he provides replacement services or fills-in for other employees.
The California legislature adopted amendments to the California Labor Code governing overtime pay. To provide its residents with the ability to work flexible schedules, the alternative workweek regulations allow employers to enact alternative workweek schedules without paying them overtime in limited circumstances.
Generally, employers must pay their hourly employees and other nonexempt employees overtime pay at one and one-half or double their regular hourly rates. An employer can adopt a voluntary alternative workweek schedule only after obtaining a consensus vote in favor of the scheduling change. The California Labor Code requires an employer to first obtain at least a two-third vote from its employees in favor of the policy. An employer is not exempt from the overtime pay requirements if it adopts the policy without providing notice to affected employees of scheduling changes and obtaining a majority two-thirds vote.
An employer cannot change an employee’s regular work hours if the employee is covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract requiring work within specific work hours or according to regularly scheduled hours. If an employer changes an employee’s schedule without prior notification and written consent, the employer is guilty of contractually breaching a written agreement, and may have to pay contractual damages to its employee.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.