Do I Have to Pay an Employee for “Reporting Time Pay” if I Let the Employee Go Home Early?

Q.     Tuesday it rained for the first time in …well… I don’t remember how long.  While I was excited about the rain, business was SLOW for my food business, Oxy-Motoring, which features produce from organic and environmentally sustainable farms, served out of my 1972 gas-guzzling converted motor home.  I had several employees show up, but, after about an hour with only a couple of customers, I sent my employees home for the day.  I gave them a “rain check” for the rest of their shift.  I only have to pay them for the hour they worked, right?

A.     Probably not.  In most circumstances, an employee who reports to work but is turned away by an employer must be paid “reporting time pay” for half the employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two hours nor more than four hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay. However, the two hour minimum does not apply to employees who have regularly scheduled shifts of less than two hours. For example, an employee who regularly works one hour in the middle of the day as a relief cashier would be entitled to receive “reporting time pay” for one-half hour if that employee reported to work and was turned away. Also, an employer who requires employees to attend meetings scheduled to last from 1 to 1½ hours are only required to pay employees for half of the scheduled meeting time if that meeting is canceled or finishes ahead of schedule. (See Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular (2011) 202 Cal.App.4th 117 review granted and opinion superseded, (Cal. 2012) 139 Cal.Rptr.3d 2.)  There are some limited exceptions to the requirement for an employer to pay “reporting time pay,” such as an act of God.  And, while in the Valley rain is certainly an appreciated act of God, it is unlikely the rain’s effect on your food truck business would wash away your requirement to pay for reporting time. In any event, you don’t want a lawsuit to rain on your parade.  So, you should pay your employees for at least half of their regular work day (generally, no less than 2 hours, but no more than 4 hours).

This Legal Update / Bulletin is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The hypothetical question is posed to illustrate a point and does not contemplate all potential legal considerations This update should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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