Resource Center

How Many Hours Between Shifts Are Required in California?

Are there laws that stipulate the minimum hours between shifts? Let's find out.
min to read
min video

Master California’s time, overtime, and break laws with Timeero.

Schedule your free consultation today

When business is booming, and workload is snowballing, you have to devise ways to keep operations sailing. You can increase the workforce or require the existing employees to pull double shifts. If the latter has crossed your mind, you may wonder if there’s a law regarding the minimum hours between shifts in California.

California labor laws are synonymous with complexity and require employers to tread carefully to sidestep violations that often lead to hefty penalties. If you plan to schedule California employees for long and arduous hours, you have to do it within the strict confines of the law.

But are there laws that stipulate the minimum hours between shifts? Is it legal to schedule employees less than 8 hours between shifts? We combed through the state employment laws and local ordinances; this guide will elucidate the stipulations on minimum time between shifts. 

Let’s dive in. 

What Is the Minimum Time Between Shifts in California?

California labor laws don’t set the minimum number of hours between shifts. This means any amount of time between shifts, or lack thereof, is perfectly legal. This is the case in most cities and regions within the state of California. 

For example, you can assign employees double shifts: one ending at noon and the other starting at 3 pm or have them work from 2 pm to 10 pm and punch back at 5 am until 1 pm. In both cases, you wouldn’t be violating any California employment law.

timeero split time at midnight
Whether you manage hourly workers, full-time employees, or independent contractors, the split time at midnight is a helpful tool to stay on top of labor costs.

Are Clopening Shifts Legal in California?

First things first, what is clopening? The term sounds like a California labor law jargon, but it’s not. It refers to a case where there’s not much time between the closing and the opening shift the next day. It combines the words closing and opening, clo+pening = clopening.

An example of a clopening shift is where an employee ends one shift just before midnight and clocks in for the next day’s shift just after midnight.

Clopening shifts are legal in California. However, legality isn’t the only consideration when creating extended or unusual employee shifts (such as clopening shifts). You should also consider productivity and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

What Is the Split Shift Law in California?

A split shift is a case where an employee’s work schedule is interrupted by employer-established non-working periods. According to the California split shifts law, the interruptions should be longer than the meal period for the schedule to qualify as a split shift.

A good example of split shifts is a restaurant worker whose morning schedule starts at 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and a dinner schedule between 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Minimum wage employees working split shifts are entitled to a split shift premium pay. The premium is equivalent to one hour of pay at California’s minimum wage rate or local minimum wage, whichever is greater. 

Local Scheduling Ordinances

While no state law stipulates the minimum hours between shifts, local ordinances in Emeryville, Los Angeles, and Berkeley require employers to give employees sufficient rest time between shifts. Let’s take a look at the three local regulations. 

Emeryville Fair Workweek Ordinance

The Emeryville Fair Workweek Ordinance was enacted in July 2017, and it applies to retail and fast food firms with 56 or more employees globally and 20 or more employees in Emeryville. It covers employees’ rights, including the right to rest.

According to the Ordinance, employers must allow 11 hours of rest between shifts. The employee has the right to reject any shift that comes less than 11 hours after the previous day’s shift ends. 

If an employee works such a shift, you must compensate them one and a half times their regular pay rate for hours of work in the shift following an insufficient rest period. 

Los Angeles City Fair Work Week Ordinance

Enacted in April 2023, the Los Angeles City Fair Work Week Ordinance applies to retail businesses in Los Angeles. The ordinance has laws covering employees’ rights, including rest periods between shifts.

The ordinance states that employees cannot work a shift that starts less than 10 hours from the last shift without written consent. Even if the employee agrees in writing to work a shift that starts before the 10-hour rest period ends, they should receive premium pay at the rate of one and a half times their regular pay.

Berkeley Fair Workweek Ordinance

The Berkeley Fair Workweek Ordinance took effect in January 2023 but will become fully operative in January 2024. The ordinance applies to employers primarily engaged in:

  • Building services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, hotel, or warehouse services industry, with 56 or more employees globally. 
  • Restaurant industry, with 100 or more employees globally
  • Retail or restaurant industries, with 100 or more employees globally. 
  • Non-prof organizations under section 501 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, with 100 or more employees. 

If your business meets one of these conditions, your employees have the right to decline shifts that occur less than 11 hours after the end of the previous day’s shift. However, employees may agree through writing to work such shifts. Even so, they are entitled to premium pay at one and a half times their regular pay for shifts before the 11-hour rest period ends. 

Minimum Hours Between Shifts For Safety-Sensitive Jobs

For most jobs and regions in California, no law regulates the number of hours between shifts. However, some state and federal laws require a minimum rest period for employees in safety-sensitive jobs, such as: 

Bus and Truck Drivers

The federal hours of service (HOS) rules allow drivers in the passenger carrying CMV to drive up to 10 hours following eight consecutive hours off duty. Moreover, the laws prohibit drivers from driving once they accumulate 15 hours of work time.

The rules are similar to those encapsulated in California Vehicle Code 21702. According to the Vehicle Code, no bus driver is allowed to drive:

  • More than ten consecutive hours in a workday.
  • More than ten hours in a 15-hour period.
  • More than ten hours in a day unless they have eight off-duty hours. 

The California Vehicle Code also prohibits truck drivers from driving:

  • More than 12 consecutive hours in a day
  • More than 12 hours in a 15-hour period
  • More than 12 hours in a day unless they get 8 off-duty hours. 

Railroad Workers

As for the railroad, train, and engine workers, federal law requires that the employer give employees at least ten consecutive off-duty hours for every 12-hour shift. 

Pilots and Flight Attendants

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized a new set of airline safety rules, including rest requirements for pilots and flight attendants. 

According to the FAA, flight attendants should get at least nine consecutive hours of rest after every 14 hours or less of the on-duty period. As for the pilots, the FAA requires employers to provide at least ten straight hours of rest during a 24-hour period preceding the completion time of each flight assignment. 

We’ve barely scratched the surface of the rest requirements for safety-sensitive jobs. Consult an employment attorney in California to determine whether your company has safety-sensitive jobs and the rest period requirement you should abide by. 

California Break and Overtime Laws

The legality of hours between shifts shouldn’t be the sole guidepost when creating employee schedules. Remember that California has laws that ensure employees rest during the workday and get compensation for work beyond eight hours. Let’s shed light on some of these laws. 

Workday and Workweek in California

The issue of long work periods and double shifts brings another pertinent question: what’s a workday and workweek in California? The law states that a workday:

Is any consecutive 24-hour period beginning at the same time each calendar day? The 24-hour period may start at any hour of the day but thereafter must be consistent and unchanged.

The California Division of Labor Standard Enforcement (DLSE) uses the general midnight-to-midnight rule if you don’t define your workday. The law further states that a workweek is:

Any seven (7) consecutive days starting with the same calendar day each week. A workweek is a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours, seven consecutive 24-hour periods.”

California Meal and Rest Breaks

The California Labor Code Section 512 and IWC Wage Orders require employers to give employees a non-paid meal period of at least 30 minutes for shifts over five hours long. 

Employees are entitled to a second lunch break of at least 30 minutes if the shift is more than 10 hours.

You should also allow employees a 10-minute break for every four hours worked or a major portion thereof. According to the break law, a major portion is an equivalent of two hours. For example, employees who work 6 hours should get two 10-minute rest breaks. 

However, no rest break is required if an employee works less than four hours. Learn more in our California break law guide.

Beyond the rest and meal breaks, California law requires employers to give employees one day of rest in a workweek. Employees work six consecutive days to trigger a day of rest. The California Supreme Court, when making a ruling in Mendoza v. Nordstrom Inc., clarified the term “day of rest.” 

According to the Supreme Court, the six consecutive days must be in one employer-defined workweek. For example, if your workweek is Tuesday through Monday, the six consecutive days should be between Tuesday and Monday.

California Overtime Pay

Timeero California overtime rule
Timeero allows you to enforce the California overtime law at a single click of a button — no more complex configurations. 

According to California labor law, you cannot employ a non-exempt employee for more than eight hours in a workday or more than 40 hours in a workweek. If employees work more than eight hours, they are entitled to overtime or double time compensation at not less than:

  • One and a half times their rate of pay for hours above eight up to and including 12 hours in a workday and for the first eight hours on the seventh consecutive workday.
  • Double their rate of pay for hours in excess of eight in a workday and for hours over eight on the seventh consecutive day.

There are exceptions, however, such as employees subject to an alternative workweek schedule. In this case, the double time and overtime thresholds play by different rules, not those stated in the California overtime. 

Real World Example 

The California overtime law takes precedence when scheduling employees for long or double shifts. For example, let’s say you have defined your workday to start from midnight every calendar day. 

Suppose you require employees to work double shifts on a particular day: an eight-hour shift ending at 5 pm and a 6-hours shift starting at 7 pm. That means the employee will have a two-hour rest period between the two shifts, which is legal. 

The focus then shifts from the hour between shifts to how you will comply with overtime law. 

Remember that while the employee worked 14 hours, only 13 falls in a single workday. The other 1 hour spills over to the next workday. 

In this case, the employee is entitled to nine hours of regular pay, four hours of overtime, and an additional hour of double-time compensation. However, if these shifts are recurring, the employee will get eight hours of regular pay, four hours of overtime, and two hours of double time.  

Timeero employee minimum wage
Once you set an employee’s pay rate, Timeero automatically calculates overtime and double-time pay. 

Timeero Helps Navigate California Labor Laws

Timeero helps you wade through the complex labor laws in California with reliable time tracking, scheduling, and California break tracking tools:

Timeero Scheduling

Timeero lets you create schedules that match your preferences. You can create double or recurring shift schedules and assign them to employees by department. The schedules show shift dates and times to help employees better plan their day or week. Employees get instant notification and can accept or reject the shift.

timeero scheduling
Timeero enables you to create schedules, be it clopening or split schedules, to inject order and effectiveness into your operations.

Timeero Time Tracker

Timeero time tracker is easy to use, even for the non-tech-savvy cohort in your workforce. Clocking in is as easy as choosing the assigned job and hitting “clock in” on the Android or iOS mobile app. 

The time tracker has helpful additions, such as the geofencing feature, which thwarts off-site punching. It also helps monitor employee movement and ensures they stay inside the worksite during the workday. In addition, you can use the facial recognition feature on the Timeero kiosk to prevent buddy punching. 

Split Time Feature

If you have set schedules that overlap two workdays, it can be a nightmare to attribute employee work hours to the correct day. This, in turn, complicates overtime calculation. But not with the Timeero split time feature.

If you have set your workday from midnight to midnight, toggle the “split time at midnight” button. This way, Timeero will begin a new workday at midnight. Using our earlier example, Timeero will attribute 13 hours to one workday and the final hour to the next day.

The good thing is that you don’t have to calculate overtime manually. You only need to select “use California overtime rule.” Timeero automatically tracks overtime and double time, per the California overtime law, and computes employee compensation based on their pay rate.

California Break Tracker

Most importantly, Timeero has a California break tracker explicitly built for businesses in California. The tool allows you to set and enforce California breaks according to the existing stipulation. 

It prevents employees from ending the break early. For example, if an employee tries to end a meal break before the 30 minutes is over, it sends them the message, “You cannot end your break early. Wait till the minimum break time is exceeded before ending your break.”

timeero California break tracker
The California break tracker helps you enforce rest and meal breaks per the letter of the law. 

Secondly, employees who work at least 3.5 hours must sign off the daily sign-off form before punching out. Timeero serves up the form when an employee presses the “clock out” button. 

The form is proof that the employee took rest and meal breaks in full compliance. 

If they didn’t take a rest or meal break, they must provide a valid reason for missing the break. You can evaluate the reasons and take action accordingly. The information on the sign-off form can exonerate you from any blame, especially if employees of malice sue you. 

Schedule Employees With Productivity and Health in Mind

Generally, there are no minimum hours between shifts in California. That means shifts such as clopening are perfectly legal. However, giving employees insufficient rest could harm their safety, health, and productivity. For this reason, always peep beyond the legality of your schedules and examine how they impact employee well-being and productivity.

Keep in mind that if you’re in Los Angeles, Berkeley, or Emeryville, there are ordinances that require employees in specific industries to get enough rest between shifts. Read these ordinances to understand employees’ rights beyond the minimum rest requirement. Always seek the counsel of an employment lawyer before implementing any law. 

Regardless of your scheduling approach, you’ll need a tool to track time, breaks, and overtime under California laws. Timeero ticks all the right boxes. It has a break tracker for California businesses, a California overtime tool, and the time tracker is super easy to use. 

Start a free trial today to try the California-specific features free of charge without a credit card. You can also book a free consultation to learn how Timeero features can help you enforce California labor laws. 

FAQs: Minimum Hours Between Shifts

What Are Clopening Laws in California?

No break or rest hour law stipulates the minimum hours between shifts in California. As a result, any amount of time between the closing and opening shifts is permitted; hence clopening shifts are legal. 

Is It Illegal To Be Scheduled Less Than 8 Hours Between Shifts?

No, scheduling less than eight hours between shifts is legal. California employment law doesn’t state the minimum hours between shifts, meaning any amount of time is permitted. 

Stay ahead of California’s labor laws.

With Timeero, you can easily manage time, overtime and breaks requirements.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial today

Learn More

Need more information on this topic?