Wage and hour laws can be a complex topic, particularly because there are so many misconceptions about them. You have likely heard from many in Los Angeles that certain aspects of your salary and pay are regulated by federal law. One such aspect is shift differential (an especially interesting topic if you work odd hours).
Many of those who work night and weekend shifts for local companies have come to us here at Moon & Yang with questions about shift differential requirements, expecting them to be spelled out in statutes. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Is it required by law?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there currently is no federal law mandating that your employer pay you shift differential for working odd hours. Rather, differential pay is a benefit left to your employer to negotiate with you and your coworkers. Instead of being a requirement, it is typically offered as an incentive to get you and others to work outside normal business hours. As an optional incentive, your employer can choose to extend (or terminate) it at its discretion.
The only true mandate connected to shift differential incentives is that the rules regulating them not be discriminatory. However, this can be difficult to interpret with it being left to employers to determine who is eligible for it. For example, you may be paid differential rates even as other members of your same work shift are not for certain reasons (such as volunteering to be on-call or pick up an open shift). Your employer can also cap the amount you can make is a given workweek.
When might shift differential be mandated?
The only circumstance under which shift differential would be governed by law would be when it is stipulated as part of an employment contract. More information on wage and hour regulations can be found throughout our site.