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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 at any time the employee is subject to the employer’s 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 a significant impact on 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.
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