Holiday Pay Law Requirements in the State of California (CA)

California observes the official federal holidays which are New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as well as days celebrating birthdays or notable people including Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays, and Cesar Chavez Day.

As in many states, California employers are not required to pay their workers holiday pay when they close for business on official holidays. If an employee works on a holiday, they are paid their usual rate of pay unless it is the employer’s policy to pay extra rates such as time-and-a-half. California law does not require the employer to pay any additional pay if an employee works on the day of a holiday unless it is part of their common practice or if the employee has worked in excess of a 40 hour, 8 hour per day work week. Saturdays and Sunday are also paid at the same rate as hours worked during a weekday. In addition, California law does not require its employers to close for business on any holiday or to give their employees the day off for a particular holiday.

Holiday or weekend pay is given to workers at the discretion of the employers according to company policy, the practices adopted by the employer, or the terms agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

The Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) enforce Labor Code statutes, investigate public work complaints and discrimination, and enforces Labor Code statutes among its many duties. At the same time, The Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR) and is dedicated to collecting, compiling and presenting accurate statistics and research regarding the current condition of labor in the state of California. Combined, these two agencies are dedicated to achieving the highest quality of service possible for the people of California.

100 thoughts on “Holiday Pay Law Requirements in the State of California (CA)

  1. I have a question regarding holiday pay. As a salaried 32 hour employee, I am considered full-time and I am entitled to holiday pay from my employer. I typically work 4 x 8 hour-days. Should my holiday compensation be based on 32 hours which will give me 6.4 hours pay for each holiday, or should I be paid 8 hours as this is what I typically work in a day?

  2. Hi Gabrielle! This is a matter of company policy, not employment law, even in California. The employer should have a written policy in place regarding holiday pay, and should abide by that policy.

    Many employers would pay you for 8 hours if a holiday fell on your normal work day, but nothing if a holiday fell on a day when you are usually off. By comparison, if the employer is prorating holiday pay based on your usual work week and paying you 6.4 hours for every holiday, that is actually better. But even if it were not, company policy prevails here. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  3. Each year our organization attends a conference. The company usually pays for 2 to attend. This year, our office won an additional ticket. It was offered to an employee who accepted. We left on Thursday morning from California to Nevada (1hr flight). The conference was 3 days from 8am-5pm. In the evenings we attended business dinners that lasted 2 hours. We returned home on Sunday. Monday morning, the employee who accepted the free ticket was told that overtime would not be paid since she had the choice to attend or not, even though work was performed the entire visit. She was also instructed by the boss not to include the extra hours on her time card. Is this legal?

  4. Hi Kristin! No, this is not legal. Both California and federal minimum wage laws require that employees be paid for all the hours worked. The employer should have considered the financial consequences before allowing this employee to attend the conference.
    Just to look at the federal law, the FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, the regulations on travel time state that the employee be paid for the time she actually worked — 8 am to 5 pm daily, plus the time she was at business dinners, 2 hours daily. Any time that is over 40 hours during the week must be paid at the overtime rate.
    The employee also must be paid for any travel that occurs during normal work hers. Being a passenger in a plane, car or taxi is not necessarily working, under federal regulations. But if Cindy normally works 7 am to 3 pm, and she is on a plane from 1 pm to 2 pm, that is counted as work time. Even if this travel occurs on a day when Cindy is normally off, it is work time.
    The employee also
    In addition, California law will require that this employee be paid overtime for working more than 8 hours per day. The employee should file a wage complaint with the California DLSE, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. They will force the employer to pay her for all time worked. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  5. I work 40 hrs a week and only get overtime pay if I go over the 40 hours. I found out today that I should be getting overtime pay for any time I work over 8 hours in one day. I have worked for this organization for a little over a year. I have never been paid for time worked over 8 hours in a day. If I worked 9 hours one day, I was asked to work only 7 the next so that I would stay under 40 hrs a week. Does the organization owe me for back overtime pay for all the days I worked over 8 hours?

  6. Hi Me! Assuming that you work in California, yes, you are probably owed overtime for every day that you worked more than 8 hours. File a wage complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enfocement or DLSE. They will force the employer to pay the overtime you are owed, for the past 2 to 3 years. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  7. Company policy is to pay for the federal holidays, i.e. Christmas, New Years, Fourth of July. The 4th falls on Sunday this year and we are closed but the Observed day is Monday. Would we get paid for Monday as over-time? I’m just curious how this works in terms of holidays.


  8. Hi mary! This is a matter of company policy rather than employment law. There are no holidays that an employer has to observe under California or federal law, and whether the employer pays overtime to employees who work on the holiday is a matter of company policy. Nor is there any law that the employer must observe the holiday on the same day that the post office does. Most employers who pay a premium on holidays would pay it to employees who work on Sunday, not Monday. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  9. I work 32 hours a week, with Mondays off.
    Is there a California law that states I am eligible for a make-up holiday if a state holiday falls on my day off? Meaning, July 5th was a paid company holiday but also my unpaid day off, which I did not get paid for. How does that work?

  10. Hi dina! No, even in California, paid holidays are a matter of company policy rather than state or federal law. There is no law that a California employer must provide paid holidays to employees. If the employer does provide paid holidays to employers, the employer determines the policies surrounding them. Some employers would not pay the employee or offer an additional day off if the holiday fell on a day when the employee is not usually scheduled to work. As long as the employer enforces this policy equally with all employees, it is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  11. If my division has a 12 hour normal working day and the other divisions work 8 hours, what should my holiday pay be based on 8hr or 12hr.

  12. Hi Everett! There is no law in California that requires employers to provide paid holidays to employees. If the employer does provide paid holidays, the employer determines the policies surrounding them. Most employers will pay workers only a maximum of 8 hours holiday pay, regardless of the length of the normal work day. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  13. I have accrued more than 130 hours of vacation time. My employer has demanded that I use 48 hours of vacation time within 45 days.

    This is not convenient as I had planned a vacation later in the year for 2-3 weeks and I would potentially lose vacation time if I were forced to take the time now.

    Is demanding an employee take vacation time legal in California?

  14. Hi Will! Yes, this is entirely legal, even in California. In fact, the employer could specify which date you are required to use vacation, without giving you any choice at all. Even in California, an employer can schedule vacation at the employer’s convenience (not the employee’s convenience.) So your employer is actually being generous by allowing you to pick the dates you will use vacation.

    Many employers do not permit a worker to use 2 or 3 weeks of vacation all at the same time.

    If you do not use 48 hours of vacation within 45 days, you could lose them, as long as the employer paid you for 48 hours at straight time. This is completely legal under California law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  15. Message


    If an employer provides life inusrance for employees, do they have to continue covering the employee if that employee should go out on a workers comp leave or long term disability leave. After FMLA runs out, we can turn off their benefits but are we liable at all to continue paying the cost for their life insurance. Our policy says that all employees will receive life insurance from the company after 3 months. And since employees on FMLA and Disability are still technically an employee, I want to know if that makes it so we have to keep them covered. The employee is paying no cost for this insurance.


  16. Hi Amy! The problem here is the company policy. There is no law that requires an employer to provide life insurance to employees. Under FMLA, the employer must provide group insurance benefits on the same basis as to employees who are not on FMLA. Once the employee has used up all his or her FMLA, there is no law that would require you to continue life insurance, even if you allowed the employee to go on long term disability.

    However, your company policy appears to require that even employees on long term disability be give free life insurance. As the employer, you can and should change this policy. You will not be able to apply it retroactively, meaning any employee who is already on long term disability must be given life insurance until he or she returns to work. However, moving forward, it does not make much sense to continue to provide this benefit.

    Of course, if you did not offer long term disability and terminated the employee after they used all available FMLA and California leave, that would also solve the problem. But check to make sure you can legally do this in California. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  17. Thanks for the fast answer Amelia.

    Now to the next question. I am classified as exempt by my employer. I work as a programmer and spend 90% of my time performing such duties as: coding and debugging. I work 60-80 hours per week and my employer knows and acknowledges this. But, my employer demands that I file a time card showing a 40-hour work week. My base salary is $90K.

    Is failure to permit me to claim real time worked for the past two years legal?


  18. Hi Will! If you are correctly classified as an exempt employee, there is no law that the employer must permit you to note the number of hours that you actually work. About 99% of employers simply process an exempt employee’s time as 40 hours. If you are exempt you are never entitled to overtime regardless of how many hours you work. Therefore, as an exempt employee information about the number of hours you work is irrelevant.

    Employers are required to track how many hours a non-exempt employee works, but not an exempt employee. So the answer is yes, this is legal — if you are an exempt employee.

    Our best guess is that you probably are an exempt computer programmer, but it is based on your primary work duties, not solely upon how your employer classifies you. If you are in doubt about your status as an exempt employee, contact the California DLSE or the U.S. Department of labor at They will investigate and determine whether or not you are being paid correctly. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage claim in good faith.

  19. I was given to understand that in California, exempt programmers must be paid according to the actual hours worked, so long as they do not spend more than 50% of their time on management and administrative duties. This is according to some CA legal websites pertaining to wage claims.

    However, as an exempt employee the salary must be calculated to accurately reflect the hours worked (which must include) any overtime.

    Now, I am more confused than ever. Can you shed any light on this subject?

  20. Hi Will! No, you were misinformed. A salaried employee can be exempt or non-exempt under both California and federal law. (This is one area where the California law closely mirrors federal law.) By definition, an exempt employee is exempt from state and federal minimum wage and overtime laws. The employee is entitled only to his or her weekly salary, regardless of the number of hours the employee works.

    A non-exempt computer programmer would be entitled to payment for each hour that he or she worked. And, the employee’s salary could be docked when he or she works fewer hours. Some non-exempt programmers are on salary, and some are paid hourly.

    Some computer programmers are exempt and some are non-exempt, under both federal and California law. This is true, even if the programmer has no supervisory duties at all. To make it even more complicated, some hourly computer programmers are entitled to payment for all hours worked, but not to overtime at 1.5 times the usual hourly rate.

    That is why we suggest that you contact the California DLSE or the U.S. Department of Labor for a reading on your situation.

    Also be aware that the California courts have overturned a number of state regulations in the past 18 months, that pertain to exempt employees — all in the employer’s favor. So if you are reading info that is more than a year old, it may no longer be accurate. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  21. My boss has instituted a new policy that really only affects me. I work Tuesday Through Saturday. The other two employees work Mon.-Fri. They get the holiday off with pay. They are hourly employees. I work base or commission, not both.

    The unwritten policy before was, if it was a three day holiday weekend and the shop is closed, I got the Saturday off with holiday pay because the shop was closed for the long weekend and the guys has Monday off with Holiday pay..This year On the 4TH of July weekend, we were open that Saturday, I had to work my regular day and The guys got Monday off with holiday pay. I just got holiday pay No time off.

    Next week is Labor Day, and my boss wants me to come in on the Monday before the holiday weekend. He says the policy is: If it is a short week because the holiday falls on a Monday, I have to work the previous Monday to have Saturday off with holiday pay, because next week will be a short week. If the holiday falls on a later day in the week I work the Monday of that week because it is a short week. The guys still have the holiday off with pay but don’t have to come in on a Saturday to make up the Full week.

    Is this legal

  22. Hi Susan! There is no federal or California law that an employer must give paid holidays to workers. If the employer grants paid holidays, the employer establishes the policies surrounding them.
    If the employer enforces this holiday policy fairly with all employees, then it is legal. For example, Thanksgiving is on Thurs. Nov. 25. If “the guys” want to take Friday off as well, and they have to work on the previous Saturday to make up for it, because otherwise it is a short week, then this is legal. However, if this policy applies to female employees but does not apply to male employees, then that is illegal discrimination based on sex. You should file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC at
    If you are working 32 hours per week and everyone else is working 40 hours per week, the employer could simply not offer paid holidays to part-time employees, and consider you a part-time employee. However, if you are working 40 hours in 4 days, you are entitled to the same benefits as the male employees. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  23. I’m confused. We are all full time employees. Saturdays it’s just the boss and me unless we are very busy and one of the guys comes in for 4 hours. My regular work week is 40 hours + mandatory overtime as needed (averaging .5 -1.5+ hours o.t. per day). The only time it has been less than that is if:

    I asked for time off and left early. or…

    The boss has taken Saturday off and one of the guys comes on his day off to cover. Then shop is closed at noon, after 4 hours, and I have less than 40 regular hours plus overtime for that week. or…

    Before for example: (all last year and memorial day this year)

    When the shop was closed for the extended 3 day Sat. – Mon. holiday weekend; Saturday was my holiday with time off with pay and Monday was the guy’s holiday with time off with pay. My pay check the week before the Monday holiday would be 32 reg. hours + o.t. + holiday pay with time off. The guys pay check would be a normal pay check. The following week the guys pay check would show 32 hours reg. pay + holiday pay with time off. Mine would be 40 hours + o.t., a normal pay check.

    Now my boss is saying that if there is a short week everybody works Monday. This really only affects me because it’s my normal day off, everybody else works Monday and has Saturday off. He says, as I understand it, that now Ihave to work the Monday before any Holiday because of the short week ( or the upcoming short week).but The guys don’t have to work before or after any holiday because of the short week.
    My thinking is if it was fair and the policy applied equally: If it’s mandatory that I have to work the Monday before I take my holiday then it would be mandatory that the guys have to work the Saturday following the holiday. So even if the holiday falls on a Thursday, If I have to mandatorily work that Monday in the week then shouldn’t the guys mandatorily have to work that Saturday in the week following the Holiday?

    Nothing is in writing.

  24. Hi again Susan! You may want to calmly and tactfully discuss this with your boss again. Your explanation is not very clear, which leads us to think that you do not understand the policy. We can’t really tell from your explanation if the policy is discriminatory or not, because as you note, you are confused.

    First of all, the employer can change holiday policies at any point. So the way it worked last year is not necessarily the way it works this year.

    Again, the Labor Day holiday is on Monday. It is not a 3-day weekend. If you want to take Saturday off with pay it is reasonable for your boss to require you to work another day. Even if the employer decides to close on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, he can require that you work the Monday before, or he could simply pay you 24 hours worked + 8 hours holiday for the week — it’s his choice.

    If the male employees worked the same schedule that you do, and were treated differently, this would be illegal discrimination based on sex. But as long as all the employees who work Tues through Sat are affected, there is a valid business reason for this difference. Again, if you are working more than 40 hours in any one payroll week, you are entitled to overtime. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

  25. In California if part of your employee benefit package is that you are paid for Christams and New Years and the holiday falls on a weekend, in which the office is closed, does the employer have to give you a paid day off for that holiday or do you lose the holiday pay for that holiday?

  26. Hi Gidget! There is no California law that would require the employer to pay you for the holiday, if it falls on a non-work day. When Christmas is on a Saturday, as it is this year, many employers will close on Friday and treat that day as a paid holiday. However, there is no law that they must do so. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  27. I am a full time salaried Manager at a restaurant in California and I was wondering if I should get paid for working an observed holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving. The restaurant always closed on Thanksgiving and Xmas, however this would be the first year we’re open for thanksgiving since we’ve opened 25 years ago.(Change in the hours of the operation).

  28. Hi Liam! We have good news and bad news for you. The good news is yes, as an exempt manager in California, you absolutely should be paid for working on a holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving. The bad news is, if you are an exempt salaried employee, you should be paid exactly the same amount as if you did not work on the holiday.

    An exempt employee is usually entitled to his or her full salary for any week in which th employee does any work at all. Suppose exempt restaurant manager Jose is paid $600 per week. During a week in which the restaurant is closed one day for a holiday, Jose is entitled to his usual salary of $600 for the week. During a week in which the restaurant is open on a holiday, and Jose works on that day, he is entitled to his usual salary of $600 for the week. So Jose makes the same amount of money that week, whether he works on the holiday or not.

    The California employer is not required to pay any employee a higher rate for working on a holiday than the employee earns on any other work day.

    If by chance you are not an exempt employee, post another question and we’ll address that issue. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  29. Hi There,
    I read thru this blog and did not see this situation mentioned. I work for a company that only pays for federal holidays. This Thanksgiving, they are closing the office on the day after Thanksgiving and not paying employees any holiday pay for that day. We are being forced to either make up the time and not get paid overtime or use our vacation. Is this legal?

  30. Hi Adam! Yes, this is legal for hourly employees. The employer is only required by law to pay you for the hours you work. They are not even required to offer holiday pay for Thanksgiving day. There is no law that requires an employer in California to offer paid holidays. If the employer does offer holiday pay, the employer determines which holidays.

    In this case, the company is closed on the Friday after Thanksgiving, but it is not a paid holiday for workers. It is simply a day off without pay. This is completely legal in California. This answer would be different if you were a salaried exempt employee. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  31. Hi, Amelia! How are you???
    I would like to know if it is mandatory for employers to close business on Firday if the holiday is on Saturday, like this Christmas this year…

    Thank you !

  32. Hi Susie! I’m great! Thanks for asking!!

    No, there is no law in California that an employer in private business must close on Friday when a holiday falls on Saturday. A few states do have such a law, but California does not.

    In fact, there is no law that a California employer must offer any holidays at all — the business could be open 365 days per year, and many are. If the employer does close the business on certain holidays, there is no law that requires the employer to pay workers for the holiday.

    Even if a California employer offers paid holidays, the employer sets the policies surrounding them. Many, many employers will give workers Friday off this year to enjoy the Christmas holiday, but there is no law that an employer must do so. Some employers will close on Saturday, and only employees who normally work on Saturday will be paid for the holiday. Others will be open Friday, but pay all workers for 8 hours more than they actually work that week. This is a matter of company policy, rather than employment law in California. It is also governed by business necessity. Many retail stores and other businesses need to stay open on Friday. In other industries, such as air conditioning repair, it is a very slow day and there is no need to stay open.

    Having said all that, any employer normally closed on Saturday who does not give workers Friday off this year can justifiably be called a “Scrooge.” That is almost exactly the plot of A Christmas Carol, the popular story by Charles Dickens and the many movies based on it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

    Read more about this at:

  33. Hi Amelia,

    I think I know the answer to my question but I’ll ask anyway. :)

    I’m an exempt employee at a California company and I supervise three non-exempt employees. Each year, this year included, the company announces that we will be closing early (half-day) on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and that employees will be paid for the full 8 hours, though they only work 4. However, the department I supervise is not allowed to close early on those days and will be working the full 8 hours. Neither I nor my employees will be given alternate time off or any other compensation (besides normal pay of course) to make up for it this year. There is no written policy regarding this practice, though in the past we have been given alternate time off equal to the amount of time off the other 90% of employees were paid for.

    So, is this legal? (My guess is yes, but I just had to ask anyway!)


  34. An interesting addenda to my previous comment – I see in our employee handbook that if an employee schedules a vacation day on a day when the company closes early, “the employee will be paid a combination of both vacation and holiday hours.” But no other comment is made about pay when the company closes early.

    Thanks again!

  35. Hi Kit! Yes, this is probably legal, even in California. That is assuming there is a valid business reason for your department to be open on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve.

    If the company decided to deprive the people in your department of a benefit based on race, color, sex, disability, national ancestry, etc. that would be illegal. But it is legal to close some departments (and allow the employees to go home with pay) while keeping others open.

    Many employers have an informal policy of closing early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and there is no requirement that the benefit be extended to those who must work. You could certainly approach HR and explain that it is hard to maintain high morale in your department when your employees see that everyone else has a benefit that they do not. This might enable you to get half a day off at another time for your staff members, and if you were lucky it would extend to you as well. You can also point out that this is what has been done in years past.

    Feel free to post any additional questions you might have — even if you know the answer to them as well! :-) HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  36. Thanks so much for your answer!

    I ended up taking it to HR and they agreed to give us the alternate time off after the first of the year. I guess we lucked out!

  37. Hi Kit! Good job! Your employees should be thankful for your excellent leadership. Enjoy the holidays!~ Caitlin

  38. I would like clarification on paid company holidays in California. I understand that in CA, an employer does not have to offer any holiday as paid, is that correct? I want to know, if the handbook states that there are 8 holidays per year and lists the holidays can the company amend that option each month prior to the holiday. So for example..I assume based on the handbook that I will have Thanksgiving and Christmas off but in October we are notified that Thanksgiving is not a paid holiday and so now I assume I only have Christmas and then again in November there is another amendment telling us there is no holiday again. Does the company have the right to do this?

  39. Hi Amy! This is legal in California. You are correct that there is no federal or California law that requires an employer to offer paid holidays to employees. A business can be open 365 days per year. Or, the employer can close on the holidays but only pay employees for the hours that they actually work. Either is completely legal in California.

    If the employer does offer paid holidays, the employer sets the policies surrounding them (in the absence of a union contract.) The employer can also change the holiday policy, as long as employees are informed in advance. Informing the employees a month in advance is more than sufficient notice, in California.

    Some employers offer paid holidays but do not pay employees for a holiday that falls on a day of the week that the employee is usually off. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  40. Hi Team,
    I think you may have answered this in a different blog, but I have trouble finding it.

    My daughter works for a well known fast food restaurant and they frequently change her schedule. Previously, they have changed the schedule without warning and told her that she had come in too early resulting in her having to wait outside or do other things for an hour or two until her shift starts. It takes about 35-45 mins to get there and my daughter does not want to be disqualified for being late. So I told her to call them before she goes in. (Already, you may begin to see an unreasonable amount of calls about to occur. Imagine calling every 10 minutes to verify your work schedule!)

    Last week, she went in to work a 4 hour schedule, she was told to relieve a person for their 10 minute break, then the manager asks her why she’s there. Duh! She’s there to work, right? Well, the manager says, she wasn’t scheduled to start work until 4 hours later. Apparently, they changed the schedule twice that day without warning as she was on the way to work.

    I read previous blogs so I understand that an employer can change schedules whenever they want to but there are 2 things that I have an issue with:

    1) Since she showed up and relieved a person based on the INTENDED 4 hour schedule, is she entitled to wages for a portion of the INTENDED schedule?
    2) Hypothetically, If they can move schedules around without any prior notice, does an employee have any protections or restitution under the law should an employer schedule an employee to come in, have the employee come in, send the employee away because the schedule was changed to a later time, change the schedule again and then disqualify the employee (write a reprimand) when the employee comes in for the later time by stating that they should’ve come and stayed for the previous schedule? (Might be confusing, so here’s the layman’s breakdown – Employee gets scheduled for Monday 8a-12p. Employee comes in at 7:55a and is told not to work until 1p-5p. Employee comes in at 12:55p and is told he/she will written up because he/she was supposed to come in at 8a.)

  41. Hi Jabbar! First we will say that some of our advisors have extensive experience in the fast food industry and they note that this type of scheduling is very unusual, almost unheard of, and completely unprofessional. No well-managed store would be operated this way. In fact, one of our advisors used the term “insane” to describe runnng a business this way. While it is common for schedules to be changed during the week, it is not common for those changes to be made with less than 24 hours notice. When a schedule must be changed with less than 24 hours notice, a good fast food manager will take it upon himself or herself to inform employees of the change, either in person or by phone.

    Having to call the restaurant twice while en route to see if the schedule has changed is unreasonable. It is also, no doubt, very annoying for the people who are trying to work there and must answer the phones. We suspect that there is something else going on here. Perhaps a feud between two managers is causing one to change the schedule and the other to change it back. (Or, perhaps for unknown reasons neither manager wants to work with your daughter, or they are trying to get her to quit. It would be interesting to know if every employee is scheduled this way, or only your daughter.)

    The ultimate solution to this problem is for your daughter to find another job. Almost any fast-food restaurant will be better managed than this one, and that industry is one that is doing very well in the current economy. At a well-run restaurant, the schedule for the week is posted and it is not changed for most of the employees, during most weeks.

    Meanwhile, your daughter probably has some protection under California law. To answer your questions:

    1) Yes. A provision of the law called “reporting time” requires that an employee be paid 2-4 hours for reporting for a scheduled shift, even if the employer has no work for the employee. If your daughter is scheduled to work 8 am to 12 noon, shows up at 8 am and is told to come back at 1 pm, she is entitled to 2 hours pay just for showing up ready to work at 8 am. (In addition to pay for the hours she actually works.) California is one of the very few states that has such a law. Read more about reporting pay at:

    Ideally, your daughter should ask to make a photocopy of the written work schedule for the week when she leaves each day. (She can present this as “I want to be sure I’m here at the right time.”) If the employer refuses, your daughter should create her own hand-written copy by writing down the hours she is scheduled for the next day. For example, when she leaves work on Wednesday she would note her scheduled shift for Thurdsay. When your daughter arrives on Thursday for her scheduled shift, if they have no work for her, she should be paid for half the scheduled shift, or 2-4 hours. If she is not, she should file a wage claim with the DLSE at If she is required to come back the same day, she must be paid for work time in addition to reporting pay. We suspect that when the employer learns she has filed one claim, the impromptu schedule changes will stop. (It is illegal for the employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage claim in good faith.)

    Our recommendation would be that your daughter stop calling so frequently. (One scenario we can imagine is that coworkers are telling her “Yes, Tina, your schedule has changed since you called 10 minutes ago” when in fact it has not, simply because the calls are so annoying.) Remember that every call interrupts someone who is working on something else. It may also be that managers interpret these calls as an opportunity to change the schedule. If she does call to verify the schedule, she should note the date, time and any changes on the back of her photocopied or hand-written schedule. (And please don’t do this while driving.) She should save all of these schedules with notes on the back. But really, calls should not be necessary. She is probably entitled to reporting pay based on the time she noted on her schedule the day before.

    2) Yes and no. This conduct by the employer would be completely unreasonable, and California offers more protections than other states do against unreasonable conduct by an employer. Your daughter should use the back of her photocopied or hand-written schedule to note any problems like this, with dates, times and potential witnesses. In the worst possible case scenario, these records can be used as evidence in an unemployment claim, or a lawsuit regarding discrimination or wrongful termination. This is another reason why your daughter should rely on the written schedule, instead of making constant phone calls.

    We will add that most employers are reasonable people. When an employer is acting in a way that seems irrational, there is usually a reason for it. Your daughter should sit down with the store’s General Manager and ask if there is a problem with her performance or something she should be aware of. She should be tactful and listen to the manager’s point of view without arguing. This may uncover an underlying issue that is creating these problems.

    If your daughter is the only employee being treated this way, and she is of a different race, color, religion, national ancestry, or sex from other employees, then this may be illegal discrimination. If so, she can file a complaint with the EEOC at Again, the employer cannot retaliate. But once more, the ultimate solution is to find a job at a restaurant that is better managed. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  42. Hi Amelia,

    A few questions.
    We use to have PTO, on January 2, 2010 the company decided that they would not give PTO for 2010, but 2010′s PTO was earned in 2009. Does the company have the right to do that without a written letter.

    Also the bosses tell our employess that they need to come to the office even if they aren’t assigned a job. They clock in, 30 min later they are told there is no work. Company policy is they need to come to the office. I heard that the company should be paying at least 2 hours even if only “worked” 30 min.

    The company just decided that they can no longer afford to pay health insurance from 1 month to the other, they are giving 1 months notice.

    Where do we file complaints?

    Thank you for your help! Have a nice day!

  43. Hi US! You may be entitled to payment for PTO that was earned in 2010, in California. Contact the California DLSE at and file a wage claim for the unpaid PTO. They will investigate, and if they find you are owed PTO, they will force the employer to pay you.
    California has a minimum 2 hours reporting pay. This means if you are required to report to work, and there is no work available for you, you must be paid for half of your usual shift, or a minimum of two hours, whichever is greater. Read more here: Again, you would file a wage complaint with the DLSE for this issue.
    Unfortunately, it is legal for the employer to discontinue health insurance with one month’s notice. Until 2014, there is no law that any employer must provide health insurance to employees. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  44. In California if a company designates certain days as paid holiday in their company handbook and then requires you to work on that “paid holiday”. Are you entitled to the 8 hours of holiday pay and 8 hours of straight time pay for the total of double time?


  45. Hi Debra! Not necessarily. Even in California, there is no law that an employer must provide paid holidays to employees. When an employer provides paid holidays, the employer determines the policies surrounding them. Most employers follow the policy you have outlined, paying an employee who works on the holiday his or her wages for the day, plus an additional 8 hours of holiday pay. However, other employers pay holiday pay only to those who work on the holiday, and still others pay holiday pay only to those who are off on the holiday. This last policy is short-sighted, since it actually penalizes employees who work on the holiday — but all of the policies are legal. As long as the employer enforces the holiday pay policy consistently, almost any policy is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  46. Hi Amelia,

    Thanks for answering my questions. I told my bosses about the reporting time. They weren’t happy! One asked me who told me and now that they know that there is such a law till this date they haven’t paid reporting time. And when I told him that they may owe us PTO he said well there’s no money. They have been acting a little different towards me but there is also other stuff going on, this just may be the straw that broke the camels back. Unfortunately, there are too many employees scared of going to the labor commission.


  47. Hi again US! You are very welcome. We would encourage you to file a wage complaint regarding reporting pay and nonpayment of PTO with the California DLSE at Only one person has to file the complaint. If they find abuses, the DLSE will then investigate everyone’s wages. They can force payment for unpaid wages (reporting pay) for the past 2 -3 years, plus payment of the PTO.

    Another reason to file a complaint: You actually have more protection against retaliation if you file the complaint. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint in good faith. Even if it turns out that the employer does not owe any back wages, the employee is protected from negative actions like being written up or fired for a trumped-up reason. If there are any negative consequences, the DLSE will investigate the retaliation as a separate charge. It is actually much easier to show retaliation when an employee officially files a complaint, rather than when an employee just asks the employer. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  48. Message
    In California, USA is it legal for an employer to pay less to an employee that was hired for a higher wage because the person is told to do some other job? The person in question is a cook being paid $14 p/hr at hire. Due to budget cuts, the employer is telling this person they will only pay $10 p/hr when this person washes the dishes for the kitchen. The cook was hired as part-time, but has been puting in full-time hours, being called in on days off, when someone else calls in sick, or for some other reason. The employer does not want to hire another person to wash dishes so they are pressuring the cook to do the dish-washing for the lower wage. Can they do that?

  49. Hi Pablo! That’s a really interesting question, and you’ll probably have to contact the California DLSE or Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for an answer.

    It is legal in California and other states for an employer to pay a worker at two different rates. However, the employee has to know that ahead of time. If the employee believes he is working at $14 per hour and then finds he has only been paid $10 per hour on his paycheck, that is not legal.

    Many employees would just work the extra hours washing dishes at $10 per hour. They would figure they were better off working additional hours, even at a lower rate. Suppose Carl was hired to work 20 hours per week at $14 per hour as a cook. His boss also asks Carl to work an additional 20 hours per week as a dishwasher at $10 per hour. Carl might be happy to be working the extra hours and earning $200 more per week.

    However, it is not clear if a California employer could fire a cook who refused to work additional hours as a dishwasher. It is hard to fire employees in California, and the cook would be doing nothing wrong.

    For a complete reading on your situation, contact the DLSE at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

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