Oct 30

“Reporting Time” Pay: Money for Nothing?

California law entitles you to compensation for showing up to work.

California law entitles you to compensation for showing up to work.

Construction workers often have to wake up at the crack of dawn and commute long distance to work. Unfortunately, they sometimes show up for work, only to have to turn around and head home because their employer has no work for them. That’s an inconvenience for any employee, but particularly one who must commute long distance, as many Inland Empire and Antelope Valley residents do. Unfortunately, an employee’s commute doesn’t count as “hours of work” and thus isn’t compensable (except in the rare case when he’s subject to his employer’s control during that time).1 The employee ends up losing pay all because of his employer’s careless scheduling error.

California law doesn’t let a jerk at work jerk an employee around so easily. Every employer must pay a nonexempt employee for certain number of unworked but regularly scheduled hours. The purpose of this compensation, known as “show-up” or “reporting time” pay, is to guarantee at least some pay to an employee who shows up for work expecting to work a certain number of hours but who instead must leave early, all because his employer failed to properly schedule him or properly notify him of a change in his schedule.2 What’s more, the employer’s failure to pay for “reporting time” entitles an employee to restitution, penalties, and more.

Establishing Your Right to “Reporting Time” Pay

Here’s how “reporting time” pay works. If an employer requires an employee to report for work but gives him less than half of his usual or scheduled day’s work, the employer must pay him for half that day’s work, but in no event for less than two hours or more than four hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay.3 Thus, an employer must pay an employee: (1) for two hours if he sends him home less than two hours into a four-hour shift; (2) for three hours if he sends him home less than three hours into a six-hour shift; and (3) for four hours if he sends him home less than four hours into an eight-hour shift, five hours into a 10-hour shift, and so forth.

Now suppose an employer really can’t make up his mind. The employee shows up for work but has to go home because his employer failed to properly schedule him or notify him of a change in his schedule. If the employer requires him to report for work a second time in any one workday and gives him less than two hours of work on the second reporting, the employer must pay the employee for two hours at his regular rate of pay.4 In other words, an employee who works more than half of his usual or scheduled day’s work – say an hour and 45 minutes into a two- or three-hour shift – will automatically be entitled to two hours of “reporting time” pay.5

Of course, an employer isn’t always to blame when he has to send an employee home without work. The employee isn’t entitled to “reporting time” pay if: (1) operations can’t commence or continue due to threats to employees or property or when civil authorities recommend that operations not commence or continue; (2) a public utility or sewer system fails; (3) an Act of God or other cause not within the employer’s control prevents operations from commencing or continuing;6) or (4) the employee is on paid standby status and returns to work to perform assigned work at a time other than his scheduled reporting time.7

Enforcing Your Right to “Reporting Time” Pay

If an employer fails to pay for “reporting time,” he fails to pay the minimum wage – currently $9 per hour statewide but higher in certain Bay Area cities. The employer’s failure to pay minimum wage entitles an employee to two types of damages: (1) unpaid wages8; and (2) liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wages.9 Thus, an employer who fails to pay an employee for two hours of “reporting time” once per month for six months will owe him $108 in unpaid wages (i.e., 2 hrs. @ $9/hr. x 6 times) and $216 in liquidated damages. The employer will also owe 10% prejudgment interest on both amounts.10

That might not sound like much, but in some cases, an employer’s failure to pay a little can lead a jury to make him pay a lot. For the violation of the minimum wage law, aggrieved employees can recover a civil penalty of $100 per aggrieved employee for an initial violation and $200 per aggrieved employee per pay period for each subsequent violation.11 Thus, an employer who withholds two hours of reporting time pay from 20 employees once every other biweekly pay period over a year (i.e., 12 times) will owe civil penalties of $2,000 for the first violation ($100 x 20 employees) and $48,000 for the subsequent violations ($200 x 20 employees x 12 pay periods).

  1. Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal.4th 575, 584 (2000). 

  2. Price v. Starbucks Corp., 192 Cal.App.4th 1136, 1146 (2011). 

  3. IWC Wage Orders §5(A). 

  4. IWC Wage Orders §5(B). 

  5. Aleman v. Airtouch Cellular, 209 Cal.App.4th 556, 574 (2012). 

  6. IWC Wage Orders §5(C 

  7. IWC Wage Orders §5(D). 

  8. Lab. Code §1194 

  9. Lab. Code §1194.2. 

  10. Id

  11. Lab. Code §2699(f)(2). 

Ben Rothman, Esq.

Ben Rothman is a Los Angeles-based attorney practicing in the areas of personal injury, employment, and workers' compensation on a "no recovery, no fee" basis. Call him at (424) 465-2948 for a free, no-obligation consultation.