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Working Split Shifts May Require Payment Of Premium Wages Under California Law

Under California law, minimum wage employees who are scheduled for a split shift are entitled to an hour of premium pay.  A split shift is a work shift that is interrupted by non-paid, non-working period established by the employer, other than bona fide rest or meal period.  If the employee earns only minimum wage, and works a scheduled split shift, he or she is entitled to one hour of premium pay for each split shift.

For example, if an employee works a shift in the morning from11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and comes back in the afternoon from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., the employee works a split shift.  In each instance of a split shift situation, an employee’s non-paid, non-working time must be greater than one hour. If the split shift was scheduled by the employer, the employee is entitled to premium pay.  Split shifts, however, do not apply to an employee who voluntarily pick up an extra shift or otherwise work a split shift other than at the behest of the employer.

The California court in Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 556 clarified that an employee who earns the minimum wage rate and works a split shift must receive one hour of premium wages for the time between shifts.  If, however, an employee earns wages greater than the minimum wage, any amount of money earned over the minimum wage is credited towards the employer’s obligation to pay this premium.  Therefore, the split shift premium wage will be offset either partially or fully based on the amount of the employee’s wages earned over the minimum wage.  For example, the court in Aleman held that no premium wages were owed when an employee, who’s pay rate was greater than the minimum wage, earned more during an 8 hour split shift day than if he had been paid the minimum wage for 8 hours plus one additional hour of split shift premium pay.  In this instance, the wages earned over the minimum wage fully offset the premium wage owed for a split shift.  However, there are numerous situations and examples, depending on how much an employee is paid, where an employee’s wages may only partially offset the premium wage owed for a split shift.  Generally, however, if you earn more than minimum wage, there is not likely to be a split shift violation.

Although a split shift premium payment may appear to be low in value, over a period of time it can add up to a significant amount.   Under California law, it is the employer’s legal responsibility to keep accurate time records of hours worked as well as payroll records, including for premium pay for split shifts.  Indeed, premium payments for split shifts must be itemized on the pay stub that is provided to the employee.

Whether there is a legal violation relating to split shift premium wages can be complicated and confusing.  Therefore, each split shift work situation should be evaluated on an individual basis.

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