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‘Short’ Shifts Draw Only Regular Pay Up to 8 Hours

D o you have a question about a workplace issue, challenge or problem? If so, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Or call (714) 966-7873 and leave a voice mail message. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column on Mondays.

Question: At what point does a short shift become a full day’s work? Say a person works part time: eight-hour days twice a week and five-hour shifts twice a week. If she works six straight hours on one of those “short” days, is she entitled to a full day’s pay? Is there a law on this or can companies set their own policies?

--G.B., Santa Ana

Answer: Generally, the California Wage Orders do not require overtime pay unless an employee works beyond eight hours in any given workday.

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To answer this specific question, let’s assume that this is a part-time, non-exempt employee covered under California Wage Order 4: Prof./Technical and Clerical worker. Indeed, there would be an obligation to pay only for hours worked at a regular rate of pay until the employee worked over eight hours.

However, if the employer has a contract or a policy greater than the California Wage Regulations, then that policy would become a requirement.

--Elizabeth Winfree Lydon, regional manager and senior staff consultant, The Employers Group

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Question: I started work two months ago at a small software company that offered me a higher salary than I had been making. Last week the company’s president called a meeting and said layoffs are imminent unless we all agree to a 20% pay cut. This would bring my salary well below what I had been making previously. Given my circumstances, shouldn’t I be an exception?

--L.C., Irvine

Answer: You could talk to your boss to see if you might be considered an exception to the impending pay cuts. However, I wouldn’t be too optimistic. Often, when companies implement pay cuts to stave off layoffs, the pay cuts are “across the board.”

This is done because equity is an important issue with most workers. If some workers are spared pay cuts, workers who are cut will feel that they are treated unfairly. There is good evidence that workers who feel they are being treated unfairly can become dissatisfied, and motivation can be affected.

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Moreover, cohesiveness within work teams can diminish if workers perceive that certain members are getting preferential treatment. In addition, management may perceive that if they make an exception in your case, they will have to make other exceptions.

--Ron Riggio, professor of industrial and organizational psychology, Cal State Fullerton.

COUNTERPOINT

I believe that the response to J.M. of Huntington Beach with respect to pregnancy disability leave and family leave needs to be clarified.

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In particular, though the California Pregnancy Disability Act applies to all employers of five or more employees, the Federal Family Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, which are now substantially similar, only apply to employers who employ 50 or more persons.

If J.M. works for an employer who has fewer than 50 employees, she would be entitled only to disability leave under the California Pregnancy Disability Act.

--Cindy R. Hughes, attorney, Newport Beach


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