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Employers Can’t Require Employees to be On-Call during Rest Periods

The California Supreme Court recently issued a ruling clarifying the right of workers to rest periods in the case of Augustus vs. ABM Security Services. The clarification arose in a class action lawsuit which claimed that the employer security services provider violated employees’ right to rest period by requiring them to be on-call at such time.

Rest Period for ‘Rest’

The primary issue in this case is whether or not an employee can be “on call” during a rest break, or whether the possibility of the rest period being interrupted vitiates the break.

The plaintiffs claimed that ABS Security required security guard employees to keep their radio phones and pagers on during their rest breaks, while staying alert and responsive to calls in the meantime. The employees argued that ABS Security’s requirement for them to remain on-call violated their right to duty-free rest breaks.

In ruling for the employees, the Supreme Court said that employers cannot control how employees spend their break time and must relieve them of their duties, including the duty to remain vigilant, on-call, and responsive to needs communicated to them during their breaks.

The court explained that the duty to carry a communications device during a rest period and to respond to employee calls while on rest break is inconsistent with the employees’ right to freely use their rest periods. A rest period must be used for rest.

Employer Settles for $110 Million

ABM Security eventually announced it was settling the class action lawsuit for $110 million. The settlement is subject to the final approval of the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. This landmark ruling emphasizes the employers’ obligation to provide duty-free rest periods.

Employment Law Issues in California

California employment law is a constantly evolving field that can change with the passage of new laws and the release of later court decisions that clarify the rights of employees. The Augustus decision does not completely prevent employers from implementing on-call policies. It only means that employers who are similarly situated can only do so either by paying a premium for requiring employees to remain on-call during their rest breaks, provide another rest period, or seek appropriate exemption from the duty-free rest break requirement.

If you are facing challenging situations due to your employer’s existing policies affecting your hours of work and other conditions of employment, ask an experienced attorney to evaluate your situation and provide their expert legal opinion.

At the Azadian Law Group in Los Angeles, California, our employment attorneys have extensive experience in employment law litigation such as wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination and harassment, wage and hour disputes and whistle-blower issues.

Call our Los Angeles employment law offices today at (213) 229-9031 to speak to an attorney about your situation.

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