Q: The other day, we gave an hour’s notice to several employees not to come into work, but some of them showed up anyway because they hadn’t checked their email. Are we required to pay them?
A: Yes, you will likely need to provide reporting time pay to the employees who did not receive your email before their shift. It’s my estimation that if you were challenged, employees may say they couldn’t have seen the email in time as it was sent only one hour before their scheduled start time.
In states with reporting time pay, (such as California), you must provide proper notice of a shift cancellation to avoid paying employees for reporting to work. There are no hard and fast rules in California about what counts as proper notice, but it should be reasonable given the circumstances.
Employees may say they couldn’t have seen the email in time as it was sent only one hour before their scheduled start time.
At a minimum, you’ll want to account for preparation and commute time. The best practice would be to give notice as early as you can or, for on-call shifts that are frequently cancelled, to have employees call in at a specified time prior to the shift to find out if they are needed.
Also, note that requiring or even permitting hourly employees to check their work email during non-working hours comes with some risk. If these employees were to read or respond to work emails, for example, they would be engaged in compensable work. You’d be required to pay them for this off-duty time, even if you didn’t authorize it. Notice by phone call is generally a better practice.
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