Can I Send an Hourly Employee Home Early?

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An employer can send an hourly employee home early for nondisciplinary reasons. In some states, state law requires that the employer pay the employee for a certain amount of hours. This is true even if the employee has not worked any hours. Also, if the employee is a member of a union with a collective bargaining agreement that requires a payment even if the employee is sent home early, the employer must abide by the terms of the agreement.

Required Payments Are Reporting Time Payments

The payment required for sending an employee home early is called a reporting time payment. Whether an employer has to make a reporting time payment depends on state law. California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon (minors only) and Rhode Island require employers to make a reporting time payment. The amount of a reporting time payment varies.

Examples of Reporting Time Payment Amounts

In Oregon, employees under the age of 18 who report to work must be paid for no less than one hour of work or half the scheduled shift, whichever is greater. In Massachusetts, an employee scheduled to work for three hours or more must be paid for at least three hours at the rate of the state’s minimum wage. In California, an employee must be paid for no less than two hours nor more than four hours at his or her regular rate of pay. In Rhode Island, an employee must be paid a minimum of three hours at the regular rate, even if the scheduled shift is less than three hours. In New Hampshire, an employee must be paid at the rate of two hours at his regular rate of pay.

Who Gets a Reporting Time Payment

A nonexempt employee, defined as an employee who can be paid a salary or an hourly wage, is eligible to receive a reporting time payment. An exempt employee, defined as an employee who is paid a salary, is not eligible to receive a reporting time payment.

State laws also except certain employees from receiving reporting time payments. In Massachusetts, the reporting time pay requirement does not apply to employees of charitable organizations. In New Hampshire, the requirement does not apply to employees of counties and municipalities, or ski or snowboard instructional employees at ski resorts.

Clarify Reporting Time with the State Department of Labor

Employers that want to clarify which employees are eligible for a reporting time payment should call their state’s department of labor. A ruling in a court case can change the state’s interpretation of the law. This opens the door for additional employees to become eligible for payment.

In California, a 2019 state court of appeal decision determined that employees who call in two hours before a shift to determine whether or not they are needed must be paid for two hours of work. This is true even if the employee does not need to report to work.

What Triggers a Reporting Time Payment?

State law determines what actions trigger a reporting time payment. In California, an employee can receive a reporting time payment for physically appearing at the workplace at the start of a shift; presenting herself for work by logging on to a computer remotely; appearing at a client’s job site; and setting out on a trucking route.

What Are Exceptions to the Rule?

States define the conditions under which employers do not have to make reporting time payments. In California, an employer does not have to make a reporting time payment when operations cannot begin or continue due to threats to employees or property, or when public utilities fail to supply electricity, water or gas.