Question:

I see the wage orders require me to pay employees for split shifts. I am unsure of what a split shift is or how to calculate the pay.

Answer:

The Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders define a “split shift” as a work schedule that is interrupted by non-paid non-working periods established by the employer, other than bona fide rest or meal periods. When an employee works a split shift, the employer must pay the employee a split shift premium, which is one hour’s pay at the minimum wage in addition to the minimum wage for that workday, except when the employee resides at the place of employment. An example of a split shift is a restaurant employee who works the lunch shift from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and then returns to work the dinner shift at 5:00 p.m.

Recently, the California Court of Appeal addressed how to determine if an employee has worked a split shift. The employees in that case worked continuous shifts that spanned two work days. An employee would arrive at work on Monday evening and end the workday on Tuesday morning, and then return to work on Tuesday evening and end the workday on Wednesday morning. The employees claimed that on Tuesday they worked a split shift since there was a gap between when they left work Tuesday morning and started a new workday Tuesday evening. The Court held this schedule did not constitute a split shift. It stated that the “fact that a single continuous shift happens to begin during one ‘workday’ and end in another does not result in a ‘split shift.’” The Court noted that a split shift occurs only when the scheduled shifts are interrupted by unpaid nonworking periods that are not rest or meal periods.

If you have employees who are working split shifts, you then have to determine if you owe any split shift premium. First, add one hour to the actual number of hours worked by the employee in a work day and multiply that total by the minimum wage. That amount is then compared with the wages that would be paid without the split shift premium. The split shift premium is the difference between those two amounts. So, if an employee earns $8.50 per hour and works from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and then returns and works from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., the split shift is calculated as follows: Pay for hours actually worked: 8 hours worked x $8.50/hour = $68.00; add one hour for split shift = 9 hours; 9 hours x $8.00 minimum wage = $72.00; $72.00 – $68.00 = $4.00 split shift premium. Because the split shift does not constitute hours worked, it is not considered for overtime purposes.

Although the split shift amount may be low, it is important to pay it. If the employee is terminated and has not received the split shift premium, the employee may be entitled to waiting time penalties in the amount of his/her daily wages for up to 30 days for failure to pay all wages due at the time of termination.
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