Court of Appeal Makes Christmas Come Early for Employers re Reporting Time and Split Shifts

The Court of Appeal issued a ruling that may change the way us employment lawyers advise clients. But WARNING, this decision is not yet final and cannot be relied upon just yet.
Anyway the first issue deals with "reporting time" pay.  California's IWC Wage Orders require "reporting time pay," viz:
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.‖ (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 5(A).)
It has been long understood (not just by me) that if an employee has to come in for a scheduled meeting on a day off, the employer must pay at least 1/2 the employee's regular scheduled shift (up to 4 hours).Don't take my word for it, here's what the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement has written about it:

Required "Training" Or "Staff" Meeting Attendance. DLSE has been asked on a number of occasions how the Reporting Time provisions of the Orders affect a situation where the employer requires employees to attend a short training meeting, staff meeting or similar gathering under a variety of circumstances. Most common are:
Required meeting is scheduled for a day when the worker is not usually scheduled to work. The employer tells all of the workers that attendance at the meeting is mandatory and a one- or two-hour shift is "scheduled" for this meeting. For those workers not "regularly scheduled" to work, the employee must be paid at least one-half of that employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work. * * *
Well, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the DLSE's analysis.  AirTouch Cellular scheduled meetings lasting two hours or less. Some employees came in specially for the meeting and claimed they were owed up to 4 hours' pay (1/2 the regular shift). The court said:

To simplify, the issue may be framed by the following question: 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, is the employer required to pay reporting time pay pursuant to subdivision 5(A) of Wage Order 4 in addition to the one hour of wages?

The answer to this question is no, because the employee was furnished work for more than half the scheduled time. The employee would be entitled to receive one hour of wages for the actual time worked, but would not be entitled to receive additional compensation as reporting time pay.

If that wasn't enough, the Court then resolved another mystery that has vexed employers and their lawyers for years:  When, if ever, is a "split shift" premium due to an employee who earns more than minimum wage for the day?   See, the wage order requires split shift premiums, but the provision is expressed in terms of "minimum" wage.  The court of appeal agreed with a district court when it held that "The plain language of the split shift regulation reflects an intent to ensure that an employee who works a split shift must be compensated highly enough so that he or she receives more than the minimum wage for the time actually worked plus one hour."

Therefore, an employee who earns more than $72 for an 8 hour day (assuming an $8 minimum wage) does not receive a  split shift premium, even if he works a split shift.  The court unfortunately did not say what happens when the day is shorter than 8 hours. ... must the employee still earn $72 for the day even if he only works 6 hours? 

Anyway, this wage and hour obscurity is probably dry as dirt for some of you. For others, though, this case could result in significant payroll savings. 

And DLSE, remember when I asked you the split shift question in a request for opinion letter like 3 years ago?  Remember?   Never mind. 

The opinion is Aleman v. Airtouch Cellular and the opinion is here.