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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular: Court Issues Decision on Reporting Time, Split Shifts

In Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular (12/21/11) --- Cal.App.4th ----, the Court of Appeal affirmed an order granting summary judgment (Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge William Highberger) to an employer in a putative class action.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant violated two separate provisions of Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Order No. 4-2001. They alleged that defendant: (1) failed to pay reporting time pay for days when they were required to report to work just to attend work-related meetings; and (2) failed to pay split shift compensation for days on which they attended a meeting in the morning and worked another shift later the same day.

The trial court granted motions for summary judgment against two of the named plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal affirmed, issuing three holdings of note.

First, the defendant did not have to pay the plaintiffs “reporting time pay” for attending meetings at work, because all the meetings were scheduled, and the plaintiff worked at least half the scheduled time, even if the scheduled time was less than four hours.  In other words,  if an employee's only scheduled work for the day is a mandatory meeting of one and a half hours, and the employee works a total of one hour because the meeting ends a half hour early, the employer is not required required to pay reporting time pay pursuant to subdivision 5(A) of Wage Order 4 in addition to the one hour of wages because the employee was furnished work for more than half the scheduled time.  Slip op. at 10.

Second, the defendant did not owe the plaintiffs additional compensation for working “split shifts” because on each occasion he worked a split shift he earned more than the minimum amount required by the wage order.  Slip op. at 17.  In other words, the plaintiff would be entitled to split shift pay only if his total earnings for the day were less than the number of hours worked, plus the split shift premium of one hour's pay, at the minimum wage rate.  Ibid.

Third, the defendant could not recover its attorney fees from the plaintiffs because the claims arose under Labor Code section 1194, the one-way fee-shifting statute, rather than section 218.5, which allows either successful party to recover its fees.  Slip op. at 22.  "Ultimately, reporting time and split shift pay requirements serve the same general purpose as Labor Code section 1194."  Slip op. at 25.

The opinion is available here.

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