California Court Expands Reporting Time Pay Requirements

A California Court of Appeal has issued an important decision expanding the concept of what it means to “report for work” for purposes of eligibility for reporting time pay, which could have significant impact on both unionized and unorganized workforces.

California’s Wage Orders include a requirement that employers pay employees at least two hours of regular pay when employees are required to “report for work,” but are not put to work. In Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc., (Feb. 4, 2019), an hourly retail employee at Tilly’s brought a class action for failure to receive reporting time wages in connection with on-call shifts. Tilly’s practice was to schedule employees for on-call shifts with designated start and end times; but, the employees were required to call in two hours before the start of an on-call shift to find out if they were needed for work. Tilly’s did not pay reporting time pay for those employees who were told not to come to work, arguing that the reporting time payment requirements only apply when an employee physically appears at work.

The Court disagreed and found that Tilly’s on-call 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.” The Court explained that reporting for work is not limited to physically appearing at the workplace. Instead, the phrase “report for work” is defined by the employer and the method the employer requires employees to report for work, including calling in.

This decision by the Court of Appeal will significantly affect employers’ scheduling and on-call practices and should protect low-wage workers by giving them more certainty in their work schedules.

All of the Wage Orders covering private-sector employment have the same reporting time pay requirements. Moreover, nearly all of the Wage Orders do not include a collective bargaining agreement carve out that would permit union contracts to exempt covered employees from the reporting time rule. Therefore, most unionized workforces are protected by the rule that employers are required to provide at least two hours of pay when they require employees to report for on-call shifts and the employees are not put to work.

On-call shifts significantly impact employees because they are not given the security of a definite work schedule. The decision in Ward v. Tilly’s. Inc. will help mitigate the strain dealt to employees who have to make themselves available for work, only to learn that they are not needed to work that day.