California Supreme Court Clarifies Law Regarding “Rest Breaks”

A recent California Supreme Court decision, Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., has concluded that state law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest periods.  The decision will require California employers to re-examine their rest-break policies and practices.

ABM Security Services required its guard employees to keep their radios and pagers on and respond to needs such as escorting a tenant to the parking lot during their rest period.  The Court concluded the policy violates state law.

Current state law requires employers to offer all employees a rest period that is within the middle of any work period that amounts three and one-half hours or more. Employees must be paid for rest breaks (unlike meal breaks), which must last at least ten minutes per four-hour work period.  Bathroom breaks do not count as rest breaks.

Since employees are paid for their rest breaks, an employer can mandate that employees remain on premises during the breaks. However, the Augustus decision is clear that employers may not require employees to remain on call during their rest break periods. Employers may not require employees to answer calls or respond to customers or vendors during a paid rest break.  Penalties can be significant for failure to comply.

The Court concluded, “During rest periods, employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time.”  The 10-minute rest break must be uninterrupted.  “The rest period, in short, must be a period of rest.”

We are available to discuss with you whether your current “rest break” policies and practices comply with current California law.


Employers’ Right to Require Arbitration Restricted in 2015

Effective January 1, 2015, employers will face tighter restrictions on their ability to impose arbitration of employment claims.

Assembly Bill 2617, recently signed by Governor Brown, reverses prevailing legal trends that have expanded the use of arbitration clauses in many types of contracts. Presently, many companies require new employees to sign agreements waiving their rights to file claims in court or with government agencies. Applicants who decline to sign these agreements are frequently denied employment.

The new law prohibits employers from requiring employment candidates to sign such broad arbitration agreements and further prohibits businesses from refusing employment to individuals who refuse to waive their legal rights to file a lawsuit or governmental complaint.

The bill is “prospective” only, meaning it applies to contracts entered into, modified or extended after January 1, 2015.

If you are uncertain whether your current employment contracts comply with the new law, contact our office for a review.