Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled on whether California law requires employers to provide off-duty rest periods.  In other words, must employees be relieved of all work-related duties and free from employer control during their rest breaks?

This issue came to light in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., No. S224853, where 14,000 security guards for ABM Security Services brought a class action against ABM, alleging its policy of requiring its security guards to keep their pagers and radios on during rest periods and to remain “vigilant and responsive to calls” during rest periods violated California’s Labor Code and Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 4.

The trial court ruled in favor of the employees and awarded approximately $90 million in statutory damages, interest and penalties.  The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that “simply being on call” does not qualify as performing work during a rest period.  The California Supreme Court then reversed the appellate court’s decision, concluding that California law does in fact prohibit on-duty and on-call rest periods and that employers are required to “relieve their employees of all duties” and “relinquish any control” over how employees spend their rest breaks.

Employers should review their policies to ensure that employees are relieved of all work-related duties and employer control during each employee’s rest breaks.  If you have any questions regarding your employment policies, feel free to contact us to discuss your situation.