Creating an employee schedule sounds easy, but when there are labor costs and labor compliance laws involved, it gets tricky. California labor laws are in place to ultimately protect employee rights, and it’s up to every employer to stay on top of the existing rules and regulations. But the first step of being compliant, is fully understanding the rules.

When scheduling the same employee for two different shifts within the same day, there are more liabilities and payroll penalties that an restaurant owner can be subject to; especially if they aren’t careful.

In every fully operating restaurant, there are generally 3 busy times, which correspond to meal times: breakfast, lunch and dinner rushes. But when these periods die down, this also means that a restaurant is generating low sales… and if there are low sales, this means that labor budgets will also be lowered as well. This is where split shifts come into place. To cover labor costs, restaurant owners will generally schedule one employee for two shifts. However, California labor laws don’t make this easy.

Now what qualifies a split shift?

If an employer wishes to schedule an employee for two shifts within one work day, the shifts must obey the following rules (as per the The Industrial Welfare Commission):

  1. The time between the two scheduled shift must be longer than a meal period (30 mins min.)
  2. The two shifts must be on the same work day.
  3. The period between the two shifts may not be qualified as a meal or rest period. If an employee requests a break for their own convenience, this is not qualified as a proper wait period.

An example of a properly scheduled split shift would be:

  • First shift: 11am – 3pm
  • Second shift: 6pm -10pm

The shifts scheduled should obey the rules of split shift as explained below:

  1. They are on the same work day
  2. There’s a long enough break between the two shifts
  3. A break was not requested on behalf of the employee

The other half of complying by the California labor code, is ensuring that employees are paid the appropriate premiums. When a minimum wage employees works a split shift, they are entitled to a split shift premium that must be paid for each split shift schedule (one premium per work day).

However, the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relation notes that “any money earned over and above the state, or local, minimum wage will be credited towards the employer’s obligation to pay the split shift premium.

This means, employees who are paid more than minimum wage are also eligible for a split shift premium however the premium will be lower for those with higher wages than minimum wage.

Calculating split shift premiums

The premium is calculated as one hour’s pay at the minimum wage; and it shall be paid in addition to the minimum wage for that workday, except when the employee resides at the place of employment. Employees who voluntary pick up a secondary shift, are not owed the split shift premium.

Whenever an employee is required to block off time to complete work related activities, like remaining on-call or attending mandatory meetings when unscheduled, employers are required to pay employees the time spent on work related activities.

This law particularly addresses the issue of when unscheduled employees’ are required to come into their workplace for mandatory meetings during their time off (see the case of Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular).

Employers are also required to pay an employer a daily minimum, particularly if an employee is sent home early. And if scheduled split shifts total to more than 10 hours within a work day, employers must also comply to the “spread of hours” rule. This means, if an employee works a total of more than 10 hours, they’re entitled to a minimum of one hour of pay at their regular rate.

In the case where an employee is sent home early, or less than half of what the scheduled shift is, the employee is entitled the pay of half of the scheduled shift; but is no less than two hours nor more than 4 hours, at the employee’s regular rate of pay (no less than minimum wage).

If the employee is sent home less than two hours on their second shift of one workday, then they are eligible for two hours at their regular rate of pay (no less than the minimum wage).

Here’s an example:

Joe is scheduled to work from 10am – 4pm and 6pm to 9pm. During his first shift,  Joe is sent home early at 2pm. In this case, he is not entitled to the minimum two hour pay requirement. Joe has already worked more than half of this regular shift. If he had been sent home at 11:30, then he would have been eligible for a minimum of two hours of his regular rate of pay.

During his second shift, Joe is sent home at 8pm. As he has already worked for more than half of his scheduled time, he is not entitled to the minimum two hour pay. However, if he had been sent home at 7pm, he would be entitled to two hours of his regular pay.

In conclusion

As a restaurant owner, educating yourself on the rules and regulations around labor laws, especially in regards to scheduling, will save you a headache in the long run. Creating an employee schedule for a restaurant seems like a simple task but when labor laws regarding split shifts, meal and rest periods, and overtime are thrown into the mix, maximizing your labor cost whilst turning a profit isn’t so easy. Employer’s aren’t required to pay these minimums but fully understanding labor laws will allow you to scheduling thoughtfully, and strategically.



This document is provided by Push Technologies Inc. (“Push Operations”) for information purposes only. This is not an official or legal document and should not be taken as legal advice. Push Operations does not guarantee or warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please check with the proper governing authority.