HR Management & Compliance

Definition of “Work Schedule” for Split-Shift Purposes

Yesterday, guest columnist Cathleen Yonahara of San Francisco-based Freeland Cooper & Foreman, LLP looked at a recent case involving a split shift. Today, she explains the court’s ruling.

Court’s Ruling

Since “work schedule” isn’t defined in the statute, the appellate court defined the term as “an employee’s designated working hours or periods of work,” regardless of the official “workday” established by the employer.

The appellate court concluded that a split shift occurs only when an employee’s designated working hours are interrupted by one or more unpaid, nonworking periods (other than meal or rest periods) established by the employer.

Further, the fact that a single continuous shift begins during one “workday” and ends on another does not result in a split shift. Thus, employees working uninterrupted overnight shifts on consecutive days don’t work a split shift and aren’t entitled to split-shift pay under Wage Order No. 4.


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The appellate court concluded that the employees had failed to establish a valid split-shift claim based on working consecutive overnight shifts. However, the employees also claimed there were other situations in which Securitas required them to work a split shift and failed to pay them mandatory split-shift pay. The appellate court allowed the employees to proceed to trial on that claim. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, 7/7/11).

Bottom Line

If employees are required to work a schedule that is interrupted by unpaid nonworking periods (besides meal and rest breaks), you are liable for mandatory split-shift pay. However, you aren’t on the hook for mandatory split-shift pay simply because an employee works two consecutive overnight shifts.

Also, you may not manipulate how you designate a workday to avoid paying daily overtime. If an employee works a graveyard shift, you can’t count the hours worked before midnight as working one day and the hours worked after midnight as hours worked on another day. Rather, all of the hours worked during the shift must be counted in determining whether an employee is owed overtime pay.

California’s New Wage/Hour “Gotchas”: What You Need to Know About the Latest Court Rulings and Regulations

Here’s the bad news for California employers: Wage and hour claims — already a big concern — are on the rise this year.

They’re outstripping every other type of employment litigation. And studies show your workers are 10 times more likely to take you to court over pay disputes than discrimination claims.

The stakes are high if you lose, because you could be on the hook for several years of back wages and benefits for every single employee involved in the case (as well as out-of-control legal fees and penalties).

To make things worse, federal and California courts and regulators have issued a flood of rulings and guidelines recently that have changed the way employers across the Golden State should prevent, anticipate, and defuse potential wage and hour claims. If you’re not up to speed on these changes, you’re putting your company — and yourself — at risk.

Learn the latest during our 90-minute webinar next Thursday, August 25, as our expert speaker — an experienced California-based employment attorney — discusses:

  • The most common reasons California employers face wage and hour claims in today’s recovering economy
  • What steps you should take to audit your wage and hour practices to uncover potential legal risks (and how to fix those problems without raising red flags for your employees)
  • The latest updates on California’s onerous, confusing meal period/rest break rules
  • How to gauge when off-the-clock time is compensable in California (from donning/doffing tasks and commuting questions to on-call assignments and off-duty email checking)
  • The safest ways to preclude liability as an “employer” when you use temporary agency workers or outside contractors
  • How to comply with the latest DLSE regs governing interns in your workplace
  • Why it’s now tougher in California to decide whether outside sales reps should be paid overtime
  • How to avoid retaliation whispers when your employees file wage and hour claims

This webinar is exclusively available to our CEA Online subscribers. If you’re already a CEA Online subscriber and would like to attend this webinar free of charge, please click here to register.

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Download your free copy of Who’s Entitled To Overtime: How To Avoid Mistakes When Classifying California Employees today!