Employees are Entitled to At Least Two Hours' Compensation for Attending Meetings -- Price v. Starbucks

As we have previously blogged, reporting time pay -- i.e., the requirement to pay a minimum of two to four hours of compensation each time an employee is required to report to work -- is one of the most overlooked requirements of California wage and hour law.   The decision in Price v. Starbucks, while not currently for publication, is therefore significant as perhaps the first opinion to seriously grapple with the calculation of reporting time wages.  

Price was a less-than-stellar barista who was asked to come in to work on his day off to get fired.  Since the employer had required him to come to work to get the bad news he was clearly entitled to some "reporting time pay."  The question was: how much? 

The canned barista didn't have a regularly scheduled shift time but he averaged about six hours per day when he did work.  So he contended that he was entitled to half of this average or about three hours of pay.  The Court, however, focused on the fact that when Price reported to work on his last day he knew he was there only for a brief meeting and had no expectation of being put to work.  As a result, the Court concluded that he was only entitled to the minimum payment of two hours' pay:

Section 5(A) of Wage Order Number 5-2001 states: Each workday 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 shall not be less than the minimum wage.

The use of the disjunctive “or” in this regulation, is used in the ordinary sense, suggesting alternatives. If an employee is required to work, reports to work, and is not put to work or does not work half of the employees' usual or scheduled day's work, the employee is paid a half-shift reporting wage not to exceed four hours. If an employee is not scheduled to work or does not expect to work his usual shift, but must report to work for a meeting, the employee falls into the regulatory category of those employees called to work on their day off for a scheduled meeting. Price was entitled to the minimum payment, which is what he received.

Thus, the Court seems to have created a bright-line rule that employees are entitled to only two hours of pay when they are called in to work to "attend a meeting for an unspecified number of hours."  




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