With the fires effecting large portions of Southern California and Los Angeles this week, it is a good time to review some of the obligations employers have in regards to pay and leave issues during times of natural disasters. The picture above is one I took showing the smoke covering the northern part of Los Angeles on a flight to Napa on Thursday night. It was just a couple of months ago I wrote about this topic when Napa faced the same situation of wild fires in October. So for regular readers of the blog, this article will be a refresher course, but I thought it would be important to cover this topic again in today’s Friday Five:
1. Reporting time pay obligations
California law requires an employer to pay “reporting time pay” under the applicable Wage Order. This requires that when an employee is required to report for work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than half said employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee shall be paid for half the usual or scheduled day’s work, but in no event for less than two (2) hours nor more than four (4) hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay, which cannot not be less than the minimum wage.
In addition, if an employee is required to report to work a second time in any one workday and is furnished less than two hours of work on the second reporting, he or she must be paid for two hours at his or her regular rate of pay.
California’s Labor Commissioner provides the following example:
For example, if an employee is scheduled to report to work for an eight-hour shift and only works for one hour, the employer is nonetheless obligated to pay the employee four hours of pay at his or her regular rate of pay (one for the hour worked, and three as reporting time pay). Only the one-hour actually worked, however, counts as actual hours worked.
Employers must remember, when an employee is scheduled to work, the minimum two-hour pay requirement applies only if the employee is furnished work for less than half the scheduled time.
2. Time paid as reporting time pay does not trigger overtime pay
Reporting time pay for hours in excess of the actual hours worked is not counted as hours worked for purposes of determining overtime.
3. Reporting time pay and meetings
There has been significant litigation over reporting time pay that is owed when employees are called in for meetings. If an employee is called in on a day in which he is not scheduled, the employee is entitled to at least two hours of pay, and potentially up to four hours if the employee normally works 8 hours or more per day. See Price v. Starbucks.
However, if the employer schedules the employee to come into work for two hours or less, and the employee works at least one half of the scheduled shift, the employer is only required to pay for the actual time worked and no reporting time is owed. See my prior post on Aleman v. AirTouch for a detailed discussion.
4. Exceptions to the reporting time requirements – “Acts of God”
The Wage Orders provide that employers are not required to pay overtime pay during the following circumstances:
- When operations cannot begin or continue due to threats to employees or property, or when civil authorities recommend that work not begin or continue; or
- When public utilities fail to supply electricity, water, or gas, or there is a failure in the public utilities, or sewer system; or
- When the interruption of work is caused by an Act of God or other cause not within the employer’s control, for example, an earthquake.
5. What if the employee voluntarily leaves early?
Employers are not required to pay reporting time pay if the employee voluntarily leaves work early. For example, if the employee becomes sick or must attend to personal issues outside of work and leaves early, then the employer is not obligated to pay reporting time pay (however, this may trigger paid sick leave or other legal obligations for the employer).