The laws regarding breaks are extremely specific, including what employees
must be paid for, what is allowed, and when breaks be taken for both employers
and employees are all explained in detail in California law. However,
both sides will often find ways to bend rules in order to make the relationship
more advantageous to them. One such was utilizing “on-call”
hours to require employees to continue to monitor their duties while taking
a rest break.
A California Supreme Court decision handed down recently put an end to this practice, stating that employers
are not allowed to require their workers to remain “on-call”
during rest breaks of any kind, saying “The rest period, in short,
must be a period of rest.” The case, Augustus, et al. v. ABM Security
Services, Inc., overturned an appellate court decision, instead ruling
that employers must treat breaks as a period in which they are permitted
to rest completely free of any of their otherwise assigned duties or control
by employers of how they spend their rest period.
The suit was filed by a group of guards employed by ABM Security Services,
Inc., who alleged that ABM required all guards to keep their phones and
pagers on and remain vigilant during their rest breaks, essentially not
allowing them to rest. While none of the guards could ever produce evidence
that their breaks were interrupted by this requirement, the courts initially
ruled in favor of the guards. An appeals court overturned this decision,
saying the on-call rest periods were lawful. The case was appealed again
and the California Supreme Court ultimately sided with the guards.
As a result, the practice of on-call rest periods is no longer legal. In
order for a break to officially be considered a “rest period,”
employers may not require employees to continue to monitor their station
and they may not require them to forfeit the rest of their break. However,
they may still request that an employee interrupt their break and return
to their duties in exchange for either premium pay for a missed break
or a rescheduled rest break later in their shift should the need for their
If you feel as though your employer is not adhering to this law by requiring
you to remain “on-call” during your rest breaks, you should
not hesitate to speak with a Hollister employment attorney as soon as
possible. You may be entitled to damages, including employment penalties
and interest for the pay lost by not getting legally-mandated break periods.
Call Marder Employment Law today at (888) 796-4010 to request a case evaluation!