California Court Expands Reporting-Time Pay to On-Call Shifts

California’s Wage Orders include a requirement that employers pay employees at least two hours’ wages when an employee “reports for work” but is not actually put to work. A California Court of Appeal has now issued an important decision expanding the concept of what it means to “report for work” for purposes of this rule. The Court concluded that an employee “reports for work” whenever an employee complies with an employer requirement to initiate contact with the employer to determine if the employee is required to appear for a shift, including calling in or logging onto a computer. With this decision, employees who are scheduled for on-call shifts are now entitled to at least two hours of pay, even if the employees are told to not come in for work.

In Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc., (Feb. 4. 2019), an hourly retail employee at Tilly’s brought a class action for failure to pay reporting time wages. Tilly’s had a practice of scheduling employees for on-call shifts, which had a designated start and end time; however, the employees were required to call their respective stores two hours before the start of an on-call shift to determine if they were needed for work. Tilly’s argued that the reporting time payment requirements only apply when an employee physically appears at work.

The Court disagreed and found that Tilly’s practices had much in common with the “specific abuse the [Industrial Welfare Commission] sought to combat by enacting a reporting time pay requirement in 1942.” That abuse, the Court concluded, is demonstrated by an employer’s failure to compensate an employee anything for the expenses and inconvenience an employee suffers when checking in for an on-call shift.

The Court of Appeal’s decision has a far-reaching impact. This decision will significantly change employers’ scheduling practices and protect low-wage workers by providing them with more certainty in their work schedules. Generally, this Wage Order rule is not subject to waiver in a collective bargaining agreement, so the decision will apply to unionized workforces, as well as the unorganized.

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