In California, a split shift is a work day that is interrupted by unpaid time off work that is not a meal break. You have a split shift if you work in the morning, are given several hours off, then work again in the evening. You may be entitled to a shift split premium of 1 hour at the minimum wage.
What is a split shift in California?
Under California law, split shifts are multiple working shifts during a single work day that are interrupted by time off work. This time off work must be unpaid and cannot be a bona fide rest or meal break. It has to be a work schedule that is set by the employer.1
The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has stated that interrupting 2 shifts with an unpaid period of more than 1 hour creates a split shift.2 This rule, however, has not been adopted by courts in California. Most employers follow it when assigning work schedules, though.
Split shifts are especially common in the restaurant industry.
For example: Julie is a waitress. On Monday, her employer schedules her to work from 11am to 2pm to help with the “lunch rush” and then from 5pm to 9pm for the “dinner shift.” Julie will work 7 hours during the day, but her shifts will be split.
What if my shifts start in one work day but end in another?
In order to be a split shift, there has to be unpaid time off work between your designated working hours. The fact that consecutive shifts straddle multiple days by beginning late at night and ending early the next morning does not make them a split shift. Even though you will have worked multiple shifts during the same calendar day – very early and very late – the shifts themselves are not interrupted.
For example: Mark is a security guard. His employer assigns him the night shift from 10pm to 6am. This means that, on any given work day, Mark will technically have 2 nonconsecutive periods of work: One in the early morning from midnight to 6am, and the other late at night from 10pm to 11:59pm. However, neither of those shifts themselves are interrupted. Therefore, they are not split shifts.3
What is the split shift premium?
California employment law requires employers that have scheduled a split shift to pay you at least the minimum wage, plus an additional hour at the applicable minimum wage. This is the “split shift premium.”4
For example: Monique makes the state minimum wage of $15.50 per hour at her retail job selling cell phones. Her employer assigns her a split shift schedule of 2 4-hour shifts: The first from 8am to 12pm, and a second from 3pm to 7pm. She is entitled to her normal hourly wage of $124 (8 hours at $15.50 per hour), plus the split shift premium of an additional $15.50. If she worked in a city or county with a higher minimum wage, like Los Angeles, the premium would be higher.
Importantly, California labor law only mandates that employers pay you the minimum wage plus the premium. If your regular rate of pay is more than the minimum wage, the mandatory premium will be smaller because you will have earned more than legally required. Your hourly wage in excess of the minimum wage is credited towards the premium. In many cases, this differential swallows the entire premium.
For example: Monique now makes $20 per hour, $5 per hour more than the applicable minimum wage rate. Again, her employer schedules her for a split shift from 8am to noon, and then from 3pm to 7pm. Monique’s wage is now $160 (8 hours at $20 per hour). However, her split shift premium disappears because the minimum wage law only requires her employer to pay her $139.50 (8 hours at $15.50 per hour, plus the $15.50 premium) and she is making more than that.5
If an employee is entitled to the split shift premium, he or she must receive it for every split shift that the employee works.
Your employer must itemize the premium payment on your pay stub.6
The split shift premium has no impact on any overtime pay that you are entitled to receive.
Am I entitled to the premium?
You are entitled to the split shift premium if your employer schedules you for a split shift and you:
- are a non-exempt worker,
- make close to the minimum wage, and
- do not live at the place of employment.7
This means that you are not entitled to the premium if:
- your regular rate of hourly pay is high enough that your employer does not have to supplement it with the required premium,
- you voluntarily picked up a shift that was split from your own, rather than your employer assigning it to you, or
- you took an extra-long lunch break, meal period, or rest break.
What can I do if my employer is not giving me split shift pay?
If your employer is assigning split shifts and then not paying the split shift premium that you are entitled to receive, you can file a wage and hour lawsuit. These claims demand:
- unpaid wages, plus interest,
- the costs of filing the lawsuit, and
- attorneys’ fees.8
If not paying employees their split shift premium was not a good faith error by your employer, they may also recover liquidated damages. These are an amount equal to your unpaid wages plus interest. Recovering them basically means that you can get twice what you should have received.9
While the extra hour’s pay rate is not very much, the number of hours of work can accumulate quickly. If you work split shifts all the time and do not receive the premium payment, you may be entitled to thousands of dollars under California state law.
Under the statute of limitations, these claims under wage and hour law must be filed within 3 years of the most recent failure to pay the premium.10 If you fail to file it within this time period, your lawsuit can be easily dismissed.
Many of these cases become class action lawsuits. If your employer is depriving you of split shift premium pay, your coworkers are probably not getting it either.
- 8 California Code of Regulations (CCR) 11040(2)(Q).
- Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Opinion Letter “Hours Worked – Split Shift,” (December 11, 2002).
- Facts from Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. v. Superior Court, 197 Cal.App.4th 115 (2011).
- 8 CCR 11040(4)(C).
- Facts from Aleman v. AirTouch Cellular, 209 Cal.App.4th 556 (2012).
- 8 CCR 11040(7)(A)(3).
- 8 CCR 11040(4)(C).
- California Labor Code 1194 LAB.
- California Labor Code 1194.2 LAB.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 338 CCP.