On the heels of another favorable appellate decision earlier this year, a recent Court of Appeal decision has held that employees are not entitled to reporting time pay when attending a scheduled staff meeting lasting less than two hours. In the case of Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular (PDF), decided on December 21, the employee claimed that under the IWC Wage Orders he was owed reporting time pay for attending scheduled staff meetings on days where no other work was scheduled. These meetings were included in the weekly schedule, posted at least four days prior to the beginning of the work week, and generally lasted an hour to an hour and a half. In interpreting the Wage Orders, the Court held that, where any work time is scheduled, reporting time pay is only owed when the employee works for less than half of the expected scheduled time. In this case, the employees expected to work for only an hour to an hour and a half. So long as the employer provides work for at least half of this scheduled time, no reporting time pay is owed.
Central to the Court’s decision was the interpretation of subdivision five of Wage Order 4, language common to all the Wage Orders. Subdivision 5 states that employees are owed reporting time pay if they report for their usual or scheduled shift and work less than half of the usual or scheduled day’s work. The employee relied on the term "usual" from the Wage Orders, claiming that since his usual shift was longer than two hours, anytime he worked for less than two hours, he was owed reporting time pay. The Court disagreed, holding that the term "usual or scheduled day’s work" includes a pre-scheduled staff meeting with an established duration. So long as the employee worked at least one-half of the scheduled time, reporting time pay was not owed. The Court also disregarded the employee’s attempt to point to the DLSE’s Enforcement and Policies Manual as supporting his position, stating that the DLSE’s position in the manual was unclear as applied to these facts, and that the Court was not bound by a DLSE interpretation regardless. As I looked over the FAQ on the DLSE’s website however, it seems that the DLSE’s guidance is in line with the Court’s opinion.
What does this mean for employers in California? This ruling should provide much more flexibility to employers in scheduling staff meetings or any work period of less than two hours. So long as the employer establishes what the expected duration of work will be, and the employee works at least one-half of that time, no reporting time pay will be owed.