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.


New California Law Defines “Sick Leave” Requirements

Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a new law passed by the California legislature that expands significantly the obligations of business owners to provide paid sick leave to their employees beginning in mid-2015.

The new law, AB 1522, also called the “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” requires virtually all California employers to provide at least 3 days of paid sick leave per year.  Unlike many other employee benefit laws, the HWHFA encompasses most small business owners regardless of size.  Limited restrictions are provided for in-home supportive services, some flight attendants and crew, and certain employees working under collective bargaining agreements.

Beginning on July 1, 2015, employees working for 30 or more days within a year are eligible to accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  Part-time employees are also covered.  Use of accrued sick days begins on an employee’s 90th day of employment.

Employees will be permitted to carry over unused sick leave to the following year to a maximum of six days of accrued sick time.  However, employers are not obligated to provide monetary compensation to a terminated employee with unused, accrued sick pay.  In addition, employers may limit the amount of sick time an employee can take in single year to 24 hours (3 days).

To determine what your company should do to ensure its compliance with the new law, and avoid what can be significant penalties, please contact my office to schedule a consultation.