• Being “On-Call” Does Not Consitute “Work”

    The Second Appellate District published its decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, which overturned a trial court’s award of $90 million in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorney fees for a class of security guards who were allegedly denied rest breaks.  There has been much controversy over the extent to which employers must relieve employees of duty while on rest and meal breaks.  The court’s opinion does a fairly thorough analysis and is worth reading.  The following are some highlights from the case.

    The trial court certified a class and granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary adjudication, concluding an employer must relieve its employees of all duties during rest breaks, including the obligation to remain on call. The trial court awarded approximately $90 million in statutory damages, interest, penalties, and attorney fees on the premise that California law requires employers to relieve their workers of all duty during rest breaks. The appellate court concluded the premise was false, and therefore reversed the order.

    ABM employs thousands of security guards, some sites where only a single guard is stationed, while others dozens could be stationed.  ABM policies required security guards to remain on-call and to carry a radio or pager even when the employee was on his/her rest break.  Labor Code Section 226.7, and the applicable wage orders, require employers to “afford their nonexempt employees meal periods and rest periods during the workday.”  The plaintiffs alleged since they were required to remain on-call,they were not relieved of all duties and therefore they were not afforded required rest periods.

    The appellate court compared the wage order’s rest period requirement and the language in Labor Code section 226.7, and concluded that while an employer cannot require an employee to perform work while on a rest period, being on-call (at least in this situation) did not require the employees to perform work.

    [A]lthough ABM’s security guards were required to remain on call during their rest breaks, they were otherwise permitted to engage and did engage in various non- work activities, including smoking, reading, making personal telephone calls, attending to personal business, and surfing the Internet. The issue is whether simply being on-call constitutes performing “work.” We conclude it does not.

    The guards had a variety of duties they would perform throughout the day, including greeting visitors, allowing egress and ingress to the premises, making rounds of the buildings, responding to emergencies, etc.  Although a guard could be called back to work to perform such tasks, “remaining available to work is not the same as actually working.”

    The court also differentiated rest breaks from meal breaks under the wage order.  Subdivision 11(A), pertaining to meal periods requires that an employee be “relieved of all duty” during a meal period. Subdivision 12(A), regarding rest breaks, contains no similar requirement. The court found that if the IWC had wanted to relieve an employee of all duty during a rest period, including the duty to remain on call, it knew how to do so. Additionally, since the IWC’s order allows a paid on-duty meal period in some circumstances, “it would make no sense to permit a 30- minute paid, on duty meal break but not a 10-minute paid rest break.”

    In an amended portion of the decision, the court looked at the meaning of the word, “work,” both as a noun and a verb:

    The word “work” is used as both a noun and verb in Wage Order No. 4, which defines “Hours worked” as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 2(K).) In this definition, “work” as a noun means “employment”—time during which an employee is subject to an employer’s control. “Work” as a verb means “exertion”—activities an employer may suffer or permit an employee to perform. (See Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123 (1944) 321 U.S. 590, 598 [work is “physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business”].) Section 226.7, which as noted provides that “[a]n employer shall not require an employee to work during a meal or rest or recovery period,” uses “work” as an infinitive verb contraposed with “rest.” It is evident, therefore, that “work” in that section means exertion on an employer’s behalf.

    I’m not a linguist, but I know we will see this language quoted in future cases.

    In the end, the court concluded that “on-call status is a state of being, not an action. But section 226.7 prohibits only the action, not the status. In other words, it prohibits only working during a rest break, not remaining available to work.”

    Augustus will be useful to occupations other than security guards since all of the wage orders contain identical language regarding rest breaks.  Any industry where the employee is required to remain on-call while on a rest break, and any employee that is required to remain on-call during rest breaks, should review Augustus.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • Paid Sick Leave for All California Employees Redux

    In an earlier article on New Laws for 2015 and on our website, Associate Robert Nuddleman, mentioned the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014.  Let’s take a closer look at that new law.

    On or after July 1, 2015, all employees (including part-time and temporary employees) earn paid time off for:

    1.  The Diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for an employee or an employee’s family member or
    2. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to obtain restraining, to seek medical attention, to obtain services of a domestic violence shelter, program, or rape crisis center, to obtain psychological counseling, to participate in safety planning or to find temporary or permanent housing.

    “Family Member” includes:

    1. A biological child, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis regardless of age or dependency status.
    2. A biological, adoptive, or foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child.
    3. A spouse.
    4. A registered domestic partner.
    5. A grandparent.
    6. A grandchild.
    7. A sibling.

    Paid leave is earned according to the following terms and conditions:

    • The employee must work more than 30 days within a year of the commencement of employment or within a year of July 1, 2015, whichever is later.
    • The employee can earn up to 24 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
    • The employee accrues paid sick days at the rate of one hour per every 30 hours worked. If the employee is an exempt employee, he or she accrues sick days based on the their normal weekly work schedule or 40 hours per week, whichever is less.
    • An employee can use accrued paid sick days after 90 days of employment.
    • An employer can limit the use of paid sick days to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment.
    • Accrued paid sick days carry over to the following year of employment. However, the employer can impose a maximum cap of 48 hours or 6 days until sick leave is used.
    • An employer is not required to pay an employee for accrued, unused paid sick days upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment. However, if rehired within one year of the date of separation, the employer must reinstate previously accrued and unused paid sick days.
    • The employer can require the employee to use paid sick leave in minimum increments of no more than two hours.
    • The rate of pay is the employee’s hourly wage at the time of the leave. If in the 90 days before taking accrued paid sick leave the employee had different hourly pay rates, was paid by commission or piece rate, or was a nonexempt salaried employee, then the rate of pay will be calculated by dividing total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the total hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.
    • The employee must provide reasonable advance notice if the need for paid sick leave is foreseeable. If the need for paid sick leave is unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice of the need for the leave as soon as practicable.
    • The employee must receive payment for sick leave no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period after the sick leave was taken.
    • An employer cannot require the employee to find a replacement to cover the days during which the employee uses paid sick days.
    • An employer need not provide paid sick leave if it has a PTO policy that meets the minimum conditions and grants the same leave for the same purposes as this paid sick leave law.
    • The employee must receive written notice of accrued paid sick leave (or PTO an employer provides in lieu of paid sick leave) on an itemized wage statement or in a separate written notice provided to the employee with his or her wage statement.
    • The state can sue an employer for violations of the new law, seeking reinstatement, back pay, costs, attorneys’ fees, and penalties of up to $4,000 per employee per day.  Aggrieved employees can also sue the employer under the statute and on behalf of other “aggrieved employees” pursuant to the Labor Code Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”)
    • Penalties include:
      • (1) the dollar amount of paid sick days withheld multiplied by three, or two hundred fifty dollars ($250), whichever amount is greater, not to exceed four thousand dollars ($4,000 and
      • (2) fifty dollars ($50) for each day the violation occurred or continued, not to exceed thousand dollars ($4,000).
    • The Labor Commissioner may file of a civil action to enforce its order and the employer may be ordered to pay to the state fifty dollars ($50) for each day or portion of a day a violation occurs or continues for each aggrieved employee.
    • In an administrative or civil action brought under this article, the Labor Commissioner or court, as the case may be, will award interest on all amounts due and unpaid.

    Now is the time to prepare for this new law and to learn these new rights so that employees and employers alike will be informed come July 1st.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
    Original article by Phillip J. Griego of the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

  • California Supreme Court Refuses Sleep Time Exemption

    The California Supreme Court issued its decision in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, where the court examined California’s sleep time rules for employees working 24-hour shifts.  I previously wrote about this case in 2013, and then updated the article when the Supreme Court granted review of the case.  I attended the oral arguments and I can’t say I am surprised by the court’s ruling. In essence, the court held that California does not allow an employer to deduct sleep time from the employee’s hours worked.

    The court did not overturn a previous case under wage order 9 dealing with ambulance drivers/attendants, but limited that case to the specific facts of that case.  The court did disapprove of another case that expanded the sleep time deduction to non-ambulance drivers/attendants.

    California requires employers to pay employees for all “hours worked.”  Most wage orders define hours worked as any time the employee is subject to the employers control, and includes any time the employee is suffered or permitted to work.  This means that if the employer requires the employee to be in a specific place, the employee is under the employee’s control and must be compensated for that time.  There are some exceptions, such as wage order 5 which has a special definition of “hours worked” for employees that are required to live on the premises.

    This case is going to have significant impact in the caregiver industry.  Even at minimum wage (currently $9.00 per hour in California), caregivers working 24-hour shifts will earn at least $283.50 per day–more if the employee does not qualify as a personal attendant under the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  With weekly overtime, if the employee works 7 days per week, the employer will have to pay no less than $2,088.00 per week.  That’s almost $109,000.00 per year for 24-hour live-in care.

    Most families will not be able to afford the cost of live-in care unless they employe 2 or 3 different caregivers each day.  This may be good news for residential care facilities and other homes for the aged, but it’s bad news for anyone who wants to spend their last years in the home.

    There may be other alternatives to 24-hour care that families and care agencies should explore, and some employees may still qualify under a different definition of “hours worked.”  For example, if the employer does not require the employee to remain on the premises, then the employee is not necessarily working just because the employee chooses to remain on the premises after his/her shift ends.

    If you work a 24-hour shift, or if you have employees working a 24-hour shift, you should consult with an attorney familiar with California’s wage and hour laws to make sure you are handling things correctly.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
     
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
     
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
     
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.