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California 4-Hour Minimum Shift Law Explained

Emanuel Shirazi

Workers in California deserve a fair and safe environment. Part of this involves being paid for time that you expect to work. If an employer schedules you for an eight-hour shift but asks you to leave after two, you’ve unexpectedly lost income. The California legislature has enacted a law to help ensure employers don’t take their workers’ time or schedules for granted.

In an effort to protect employees, California has a new 4-hour minimum shift law. Understanding this new law can help you exercise your rights at work and take action against your employer if they attempt to violate your rights.

Understanding California’s 4-Hour Minimum Shift Law

The new 4-hour minimum shift law is also known as the “reporting time pay law.” This law aims to protect employees who are unable to work their full hours because of a lack of work or a lack of need for the employee’s assistance. This legislation requires employers to compensate their employees for at least four hours of work.

It works like this – if you are a server and report to work, but business is slow and your manager sends you home, the law requires that you must still receive four hours of pay for arriving at work.

The law outlines what it means to report to work and therefore be eligible for four hours of pay. Reporting to work includes:

  • Arriving at work to begin your shift
  • Logging into a computer or online system for remote jobs
  • Arriving at a job site or client meeting for a shift
  • Starting one’s trucking shift or route
  • Calling in to a job to see if you need to report

The law requires that employers give employees sufficient notice if they are not needed for their shift. If they do not provide sufficient notice, they must compensate you for at least half of the hours that you were scheduled to work. For example, if your shift was meant to be 8 hours long, they must compensate you for four hours of work if they send you home or dismiss you early for the day.

This law aims to provide more financial stability for employees. Being dismissed from a shift after counting on the income can be devastating to families or individuals living paycheck to paycheck. This new legislation aims to ease this disparity in income when a shift gets canceled.

4-Hour Minimum Shift Law Exceptions

There are caveats to the law of which you should be aware. In most situations, the law only applies to circumstances within an employer’s control. Unavoidable scenarios or acts of nature generally preclude an employer from having to pay four hours of an employee’s wage if their shift gets canceled.

Some examples include:

  • Power or utility outages
  • Storms
  • Earthquakes
  • Forest fires
  • Flooding

In these scenarios, there may be other financial support available to employees who lose their income. However, an employer will not be obligated to abide by the 4-hour minimum shift law.

Shift Lengths

Employees must understand that this law doesn’t guarantee them work or more hours. Your employer is not required to schedule you for a certain number of hours or a specific amount of time. It requires them to offer partial pay if they cancel a shift or release you before your shift is over.

If you are concerned about your hours, schedule, or other rights associated with your employee, contact our firm. You should speak with a Los Angeles wage and hour lawyer to understand your next steps. Your employer may be violating other rights that are not associated with the 4-hour minimum shift law.


Q: How Many Hours Between Shifts Are Legal in California in 2023?

A: California does not require employers to leave a certain number of hours between shifts. Rather, the law requires that employees get regular breaks during their shifts, as well as mealtimes for longer shifts. If an employee works over 40 hours in a week, or 8 hours in a single day, they are entitled to overtime pay from their employer. Otherwise, there is no requirement for employers to offer a certain amount of time off between shifts.

Although wage increases/penalties accrue for employers who require employees to work seven days a week.

Q: What Is the Shortest Shift You Can Legally Work?

A: California does not have a minimum shift length requirement, a fact that confuses many people. The 4-hour minimum shift law does not actually refer to the length of the shift but rather the number of hours an employee must be compensated for if their shift gets canceled or they get released from work early. Your employer must compensate you for half of your shift if they send you home early or call you and tell you not to come in.

Q: What Is the Break Law in California?

A: Employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every 4 hours that they work or major fraction thereof. For every 5 hours worked, the employee is entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. The unpaid lunch break cannot be interrupted or disturbed, and the employee cannot be expected to engage in work-related activities or tasks during this time. If they are asked to work during their meal, they must be paid for their time.

Q: How Many Hours Is Considered Part-Time in California?

A: Any number of hours less than 40 is considered part-time according to California law. However, individual businesses may consider part-time to be a different number of hours within their own system. Be sure to read your contract at length so you are aware of your workplace’s policies and requirements. If you are confused, or believe that your employer is misclassifying or underpaying you, contact a wage and hour attorney right away.

Contact Shirazi Law Firm, PC

Our team at Shirazi Law Firm, PC, has been representing employees for many years. We understand the challenges that workers face, and we are passionate about developing legal solutions to any problem that you may be facing.

We have experience working for employers as well, which gives us a thorough understanding of both sides of the story. This makes us equipped to represent any employee in any type of employment law scenario.

For more information or to schedule your consultation, contact the Shirazi Law Firm, PC.

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