To properly calculate the overtime rate for a non-exempt employee, employers must first calculate the “regular rate of pay.”  Under federal law, and the laws of most states, the regular rate is determined by dividing the employee’s total weekly remuneration (except for a handful of categories that are specifically excluded, such as gifts and payments for non-working hours) by the total number of hours actually worked by the employee that week.  But certain states, including California, require a different calculation—one that, depending on the nature of the compensation, can only be divided by some, but not all, of the total hours worked in the week.

In this regard, California law distinguishes between “flat-sum bonuses” and “production bonuses,” both of which may be paid on a weekly basis.  As we’ve discussed previously, the California Supreme Court, in its 2018 decision in Alvarado v. Dart Container Corporation of California, held that when calculating the regular rate for a flat-sum bonus (e.g., an attendance bonus), the employer should divide the bonus solely by the employee’s non-overtime hours in the week.  By contrast, and consistent with the federal rule, a production bonus—i.e., a bonus that varies based on output or hours worked—can be divided by all hours worked in the week (both overtime and non-overtime) to arrive at the regular rate.  Alvarado left open the question of how to apply these principles to other forms of compensation.

Earlier this month, in its decision in Bowen v. Target Corp., the Ninth Circuit examined how to calculate the regular rate for shift differentials and holiday premiums (collectively called shift premiums).  The plaintiffs in Bowen argued that shift premiums should be treated the same as flat-sum bonuses—i.e., that the denominator in the regular rate equation should be the total non-overtime hours worked, and not all hours worked.  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, noting that—unlike flat-sum bonuses, which are not directly impacted by the number of hours worked in a week—shift premiums directly correlate to the total number of weekly hours worked and will necessarily increase as an employee works overtime.  They are therefore properly viewed as being paid in respect of all weekly hours worked, and not merely in respect of non-overtime hours.

Although Bowen is unpublished, the well-reasoned decision may provide guidance to California employers and, hopefully, other courts.

Print:
Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Allan Bloom Allan Bloom

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages…

Allan S. Bloom is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and advisor who represents management in a broad range of employment and labor law matters. As a litigator, Allan has successfully defended a number of the world’s leading companies against claims for unpaid wages, employment discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge, both at the trial and appellate court levels as well as in arbitration. He has secured complete defense verdicts for clients in front of juries, as well as injunctions to protect clients’ confidential information and assets.

As the leader of Proskauer’s Wage and Hour Practice Group, Allan has been a strategic partner to a number of Fortune 500 companies to help them avoid, minimize and manage exposure to wage and hour-related risk. Allan’s views on wage and hour issues have been featured in The New York TimesReutersBloomberg and Fortune, among other leading publications. His class-action defense work for clients has saved hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages.

Allan is regularly called on to advise boards of directors and senior leadership on highly sensitive matters such as executive transitions, internal investigations and strategic workforce planning. He also has particular expertise in the financial services industry, where he has litigated and arbitrated cases, including at FINRA and its predecessors, for more than 20 years.
A prolific author and speaker, Allan was the Editor of the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Journal from 2012 to 2017. He has served as an author, editor and contributor to a number of leading treatises in the field of employment law, including ADR in Employment Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Senior Editor), Employment Discrimination Law (ABA/Bloomberg BNA, Final Proof Editor), Cutting Edge Advances in Resolving Workplace Disputes (Cornell University/CPR, Editor), The Employment Law Review (Law Business Research, U.S. Chapter Author), and The Complete Compliance and Ethics Manual (SCCE, Chapter Author).

Allan is a member of the NYSBA’s House of Delegates, sits on the Executive Committee of the NYSBA’s Labor and Employment Law Section, and is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. He has been recognized as a leading practitioner by Chambers since 2011.

Photo of Philippe A. Lebel Philippe A. Lebel

Philippe (Phil) A. Lebel represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, trade secrets, and breach of contract litigation, in both the single-plaintiff and class- and/or representative-action context, at both the trial and…

Philippe (Phil) A. Lebel represents employers in all aspects of employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, defamation, trade secrets, and breach of contract litigation, in both the single-plaintiff and class- and/or representative-action context, at both the trial and appellate level, and before administrative agencies.

In addition to his litigation work, Phil regularly advises clients regarding compliance with federal, state and local employment laws, and assists a variety of companies and financial firms in evaluating labor and employment issues in connection with corporate transactions. Phil also has experience assisting employers with sensitive employee investigations and trainings.  Phil also represents employers in connection with labor law matters, such as labor arbitrations and proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board.

Phil has assisted clients in a wide array of sectors including in the biotech, education, entertainment, financial services, fitness, healthcare, high-tech, legal services, manufacturing, media, professional services, sports, and staffing industries, among others.

Phil regularly speaks on emerging issues for employers and has been published or quoted in Law360, the Daily JournalThe Hollywood ReporterBusiness Insurance, and SHRM.org regarding a variety of labor and employment law topics.

During college, Phil worked on political campaigns in Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama, and was an intern with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Phil is a former member of the Board of Directors of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.

Photo of David Gobel David Gobel

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of

David R Gobel is an associate in the Labor Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group.

David Gobel earned his J.D at USC Gould School of Law, where he was a Senior Citations Editor of the USC Journal of Interdisciplinary Law, and part of the executive committee of USC’s Music Law Society. Prior to law school, David worked as a research executive for a marketing research firm in New York.