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California Court Clarifies Scheduled Overnight Shifts Not Entitled to Split Shift Pay

  • July 20, 2011

The California Court of Appeal has held that employees who work overnight shifts that begin on one day and conclude on the next, but which are not interrupted by unpaid, non-working periods, do not work “split shifts,” as defined in the applicable Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order.  Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. v. Superior Court (Holland), No. B227950 (Cal. Ct. App. July 7, 2011).  As fact questions existed whether the employees, in other circumstances, had performed split shift work, the Court remanded the case to the trial court.

The Facts

Michael J. Holland, David Richardson and Geraldine Evans (collectively, the “plaintiffs”) worked as security guards for Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. They sometimes worked night shifts beginning on one day and ending on the next.  The plaintiffs’ work schedules and the number of hours worked varied.  Securitas has established the workday as beginning at midnight and ending the following midnight; as a result, the plaintiffs’ shifts occasionally were divided between two workdays. 

The plaintiffs filed a class action against Securitas and alleged that the company failed to pay mandatory split shift time.  Securitas moved for summary adjudication and argued that an uninterrupted work shift spanning midnight and falling on two days is not a split shift.  The trial court denied the company’s motion, and Securitas appealed.

California Split Shift

Under California law, employers must pay an additional hour’s pay for workdays where employees work a split shift.  Wage Order No. 4 defines a “split shift” as “a work schedule, which is interrupted by non-paid non-working periods established by the employer, other than bona fide rest or meal breaks.”  A “shift” is defined as “designated hours of work by an employee, with a designated beginning time and quitting time.”  However, “work schedule” is not defined in either the Wage Order or the California Labor Code.  Notwithstanding the lack of a definition, the appeals court concluded that a “work schedule” “simply means an employee’s designated working hours or periods of work,” regardless of the “workday” established by an employer.

Based on the Court’s interpretation of “work schedule” and the Wage Order’s plain language, the Court concluded that a split shift only occurs when an employee’s designated working hours are interrupted by one or more unpaid, nonworking periods that are not bona fide rest or meal periods.  Therefore, it found the fact that a single continuous shift begun on one workday and ending on the following workday did not transform the shift into a “split shift.”  Correspondingly, the Court held that “employees working uninterrupted overnight shifts on consecutive days do not work a split shift and are not entitled to split-shift pay under the wage order.” 

However, because fact issues existed regarding whether the plaintiffs worked split shifts in other circumstances, Securitas was not entitled to summary adjudication, and the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

Implications

This case is good news for California employers with 24-hour workforces.  The California Court of Appeal recognized that split shifts were meant to compensate employees for working two non-consecutive shifts in the same day, rather than to provide a premium payment for working overnight.  Contact your Jackson Lewis attorney for additional information on this case or on California wage-hour issues.

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