Can I Send an Hourly Employee Home Early?

By Grace Ferguson - Updated June 05, 2017
Shop assistant using digital device for payment

Federal law and state law do not prohibit an employer from sending an employee home early, such as during slow periods or business closings caused by adverse weather. Hourly employees are paid according to time worked, and typically do not get paid for time not spent working. Depending on state law, however, you might need to provide show-up or reporting time pay.

State Requirements

Most states do not require that employers pay employees for hours not worked. A few other states -- including California, Oregon, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, District of Columbia and New Jersey -- have show-up pay laws. For example:

  • Massachusetts employers must pay employees who are scheduled to work three or more hours and are sent home early at least three hours at the minimum wage.
  • New York employers must compensate the employee for at least four hours or the number of hours in her regular shift, whichever is less, at the minimum wage
  • Employers in Oregon do not have to provide show-up pay to adult employees, but must do so for minors under 18.  

Tip

Consult your state labor department for rules concerning employees who are sent home early.

Exceptions to Show-Up Pay

The state may have situations that do not qualify for show-up pay. For example, California does not require payment in some instances, including when:

  • The employee makes it to work, but is unfit such as under the influence of alcohol
  • The employee arrives to work late and is let go or sent home early as a disciplinary measure
  • The employer told the employee about the change in her work schedule ahead of time
  • Situations outside of the employer's control occur, such as natural disasters or bomb threats
  • Failures in the sewer or public utilities system

Warning

An employee can file a wage claim with the state labor department or a private lawsuit to recover unpaid show-up pay. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, retaliating against an employee because she requested her show-pay can lead to discrimination charges.

Contractual Agreements

If a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract deems a certain number of hours as work time, you must pay the agreed-upon hours even if the employee is sent home early.

Tip

If the state or a contractual agreement requires that you provide show-up pay, the hours must be paid at the state-mandated or agreed-upon rate.

Paid Time Off

If you provide paid time off, you can use the employee's available leave hours to make up for wages she lost due to being sent home early. An employee who shows up to work sick, and is sent home early as a result, does not qualify for show-up pay. You can, however, deduct the time taken from his leave bank.

About the Author

Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.

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