On-Call Rest Breaks Illegal in California

Today the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (the decision of the Supreme Court is below). The primary holding of the decision is that California law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest breaks. In other words, California employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how the employees spend their break time. On-Duty rest breaks are illegal in California, and on-call rest breaks are illegal in California too.

California law requires employers to provide non-exempt employees with a 10-minute, paid rest break for every four hours of work. The question answered by the Augustus case was whether California employers can interrupt their employees’ rest breaks if there was a need, such as an emergency or other reason.

The facts were these: ABM, a security guard company, provided rest periods to its security guards. But the company did not relinquish all control over the guards during their rest periods. In particular, ABM required guards to keep their radios and pagers on, remain vigilant, and respond when needs arose, such as escorting tenants to parking lots, notifying building managers of mechanical problems, and responding to emergency situations.

Call Strauss & Strauss today to recover wages owed for unpaid on-call rest periods.

The California Supreme Court held that during rest breaks employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time.

In other words, California law requires employers to provide off-duty rest breaks to non-exempt employees.

The Augustus court then turned its attention to whether “on-call” rest breaks are illegal under California law. The question was “can an employer satisfy its obligation to relieve employees from duties and employer control during rest periods when the employer nonetheless requires its employees to remain on call?” The Supreme Court’s answer was “No.” The court reasoned as follows:

[O]ne cannot square the practice of compelling employees to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices, with the requirement to relieve employees of all work duties and employer control during 10-minute rest periods.

The takeaway from this decision is that California employers cannot require employees to remain on-call during their rest breaks. On-call rest breaks are illegal in California.

My Employer Makes Me Stay On-Call During My Rest Breaks, What Should I Do?

If your employer makes you stay on-call during your rest breaks, call us immediately for assistance. Employers cannot make you stay on-call during your rest breaks. If they make you stay on-call during your rest breaks, the law says they must pay you one hour of pay for every rest period that you missed because you were on call. California law lets employees go back as far as four years to recover this one hour of pay for each rest break violation. Call us now to see if you have a claim for unpaid on-call rest breaks in California.

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