Employers Must Pay Employees for “On Call” Rest Breaks

Recently the California Supreme Court held that California employers must compensate their employees a premium hour of wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay for “on call” rest breaks. In the landmark decision Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the plaintiff, Jennifer Augustus, filed a class action on behalf of all ABM security guards in California for among other things, rest break violations. Augustus argued that ABM required their security guards to keep their pagers or radios on during their rest periods and to vigilantly respond to calls when needed. Consequently, Augustus argued that ABM policies required the security guards to work through their rest periods and thus, unlawfully denied the security guards their rest periods.

The California Supreme Court agreed and held that rest periods by their very nature must be “duty free.” The Supreme Court reasoned that an employee on a rest break who must be “at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices,” is not “duty free.” The Supreme Court determined that being “on call,” in the manner that the security guards were, “compels employees to remain at the ready and capable of being summoned to action” and required employees to fulfill duties during the break, including “carrying a device or otherwise making arrangements so the employer can reach the employee during a break, responding when the employer seeks contact with the employee, and performing other work if the employer so requests.” The Supreme Court cited several examples of personal activities that employees could not engage in during an on-call rest period, such as “going for a ten-minute walk, pumping breast milk, or completing a phone call to arrange child care.” The Supreme Court’s decision paved the way for a $90 million judgment in favor of the employee security guards.

Examples of “on call” California employees include security guards, nurses, plumbers, electricians, building services and janitorial employees.

Call the San Diego wage and hour attorneys at the JCL Law Firm for a free consultation if your California employer requires you to remain “on call” during your meal or rest period. Toll Free 888-498-6999.


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