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February 25, 2015

Employment Law Update

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Second District Court of Appeal rules that California law does not require employers to relieve employees of all duties during rest periods.

On January 29, 2015, the Second District Court of Appeals in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (Case Nos. B243788 & B247392) held that, unlike meal breaks, California law does not require employers to relieve employees of all duties during rest periods.

The Plaintiffs in Augustus represented a class of approximately 15,000 non-exempt security guards who worked for ABM Security Services, Inc.  The Plaintiffs’ primary claim was that ABM violated California rest-period laws that require employers to provide non-exempt employees with a 10-minute rest period for every 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof.  According to undisputed evidence, ABM required that its security guards keep their radios on during their breaks, remain vigilant, and potentially respond to security-related calls (no specific evidence was presented that any employees’ breaks were interrupted).

In their lawsuit, Plaintiffs contended that California law requires employers to relieve their workers of all duties during rest breaks.  According to Plaintiffs, ABM’s “on call” policy effectively deprived them of their breaks.  On Plaintiffs’ motions for summary adjudication and summary judgment, the trial court agreed and entered judgment in the Plaintiffs favor for over $119,000,000 in damages, interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees.

On appeal, the Second District reversed finding that, unlike meal periods, California law does not command employers to “relieve employees of all duties” during rest breaks.  Rather, employers must not require employees “to work” during rest or recovery periods.  The Court concluded that “simply being on-call” does not constitute performance of “work.”

Comment:  Even though the Second District rejected the Plaintiffs’ argument that “on-call” rest periods violate California labor laws, the Court sustained the class certification order on the basis that, under ABM’s policy, employees may have been deprived of rest breaks.  Employees should thus take caution in implementing on-call rest period policies.

Practice Area: Employment
Attorney: Douglas J. Melton, Shane M. Cahill

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