GIMME A BREAK!
That’s exactly what you will think if you take the time to read the recent California Supreme Court decision of Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc.
In Augustus, the California Supreme Court looked at rest break obligations. Under the IWC Wage Orders, California employers are required to provide non-exempt employees with paid rest breaks of no less than ten minutes for each four-hour block of work. In Augustus, the Court looked at whether the employer had met its rest break obligation where employees were permitted to stop working, but were required to carry a pager or radio so that they could be summoned if needed during the 10-minute break.
The Court determined that employees who were “on-call” had not been relieved of all duty because they were still subject to employer control. For this reason, the on-call rest breaks did not comply with the law. As the Court stated, “the law requires…that employers relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time, and relieve their employees of all duties–including the obligation that an employee remain on-call.”
What does this decision mean for employers? First, employers will want to review rest break policies to ensure that employees are not subjected to any form of employer control or other restriction during the rest period. Secondly, employers should inform employees that they are required to turn off radios, pagers, or cell phones during the rest break time in order to ensure that they are not interrupted. Employees should also be instructed to “re-start” the rest break if they are interrupted for some reason. Finally, having employees affirm that they were provided with the opportunity to take meal and rest breaks or explain instances when the meal or rest break could not be taken (and then paying the necessary premium, if triggered) is always a recommended best practice.