Is it legal for my employer to schedule and pay me for 20 minutes daily?

When I was hired I was given hours of 1-4PM to start then 10-5 5X/week.
Once I actually started working, I have been continuously given less than an
hour of work daily and sometimes only 20 minutes. Is this legal? I signed a
contract for the above hours, but they notify 24 hours in advance of the
actual hours they need me the following day. I can’t support myself with this
money and they were very misleading about the hours in the interview and
while signing the contract. Is this legal?

Asked on June 2, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the terms of the contract. If it guarantees you certain hours, then, if the employer fails to give you those hours, they are in breach of contract and you could sue them to enforce the contract and/or for compensation (e.g. for the pay you should have received).
However, that requires a firm written contract, for a defined period of time (e.g. a one-year contract), which is still in effect (the period of time has not expired), definitively guarantying you those hours. If the contract has any discretion or right for the employer to change the hours, or if it's not for a defined period of time and still in effect, the employer may change your work hours at will. Employers have full control over work hours unless limited by a contract. If the contract does not help you, the fact that they told you that you'd have certain hours when you interviewed will not help you either: the law lets employers change hours after they hire someone. It does not matter if you can't support yourself: legally, that is not the employer's concern.


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