It should come as no surprise that California, known for regulating work, also regulates rest. Section 551 of the California Labor Code states that, subject to certain exceptions, all employees are entitled to “one day’s rest” from labor “in seven” and Section 552 states that employers shall not “cause  employees to work more than six days in seven.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked the California Supreme Court in Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc. these three specific questions:
1. Is the day of rest required by sections 551 and 552 calculated by the workweek, or does it apply on a rolling basis to any seven consecutive day period?
2. Does the section 556 exemption for workers employed six hours or less on at least one day of the applicable week, or does it apply only when an employee works no more than six hours on each and every day of the week?
3. What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to go without a day of rest pursuant to Section 552: force, coerce, pressure, schedule, encourage, reward, permit, or something else?
This week, the Court responded.
1. The day of rest required by sections 551 and 552 is calculated by the workweek, it does not apply on a rolling basis to any seven consecutive day period.
2. Section 556, which exempts an employer from providing a day of rest when an employee’s “total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof[,]” applies only when an employee works no more than six hours on each and every day of that week.
3. An employer “causes” an employee to go without a day of rest pursuant to section 552 when the employer encourages the employee to miss the day or otherwise conceals the employee’s right to it. In other words, employers are obligated “to apprise employees of their entitlement to a day of rest and thereafter to maintain absolute neutrality as to the exercise of that right.” Employers are not liable to an employee for missing a day of rest “simply because an employee chooses to work a seventh day.”
Employers should review their scheduling practices to ensure they are consistent with the Court’s ruling.