Are Employees Allowed to be On-Call During Rest Breaks?

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The laws regarding breaks are extremely specific, including what employees must be paid for, what is allowed, and when breaks be taken for both employers and employees are all explained in detail in California law. However, both sides will often find ways to bend rules in order to make the relationship more advantageous to them. One such was utilizing “on-call” hours to require employees to continue to monitor their duties while taking a rest break.

A California Supreme Court decision handed down recently put an end to this practice, stating that employers are not allowed to require their workers to remain “on-call” during rest breaks of any kind, saying “The rest period, in short, must be a period of rest.” The case, Augustus, et al. v. ABM Security Services, Inc., overturned an appellate court decision, instead ruling that employers must treat breaks as a period in which they are permitted to rest completely free of any of their otherwise assigned duties or control by employers of how they spend their rest period.

The suit was filed by a group of guards employed by ABM Security Services, Inc., who alleged that ABM required all guards to keep their phones and pagers on and remain vigilant during their rest breaks, essentially not allowing them to rest. While none of the guards could ever produce evidence that their breaks were interrupted by this requirement, the courts initially ruled in favor of the guards. An appeals court overturned this decision, saying the on-call rest periods were lawful. The case was appealed again and the California Supreme Court ultimately sided with the guards.

As a result, the practice of on-call rest periods is no longer legal. In order for a break to officially be considered a “rest period,” employers may not require employees to continue to monitor their station and they may not require them to forfeit the rest of their break. However, they may still request that an employee interrupt their break and return to their duties in exchange for either premium pay for a missed break or a rescheduled rest break later in their shift should the need for their services arise.

If you feel as though your employer is not adhering to this law by requiring you to remain “on-call” during your rest breaks, you should not hesitate to speak with a Hollister employment attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to damages, including employment penalties and interest for the pay lost by not getting legally-mandated break periods.

Call Polaris Law Group today at (888) 796-4010 to request a case evaluation!