Decision: In Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., a California Court of Appeal reversed a $94 million judgment in a wage-and-hour class action, rejecting the plaintiffs’ theory that the company violated wage-and-hour laws by requiring some employees to remain “on call” and carry radios during rest breaks. The class of approximately 15,000 former and present security guards sought unpaid wages, interest and penalties, alleging that the company had violated California law by them of off-duty rest breaks. The trial court granted summary adjudication and summary judgment to the plaintiffs, holding that California lawrequires employers to relieve their workers of all duty during rest breaks.
The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding: “Labor Code section 226.7, contrary to the trial court’s ruling, prescribes only that an employee not be required to work on a rest break, not that he or she be relieved of all duties, such as the duty to remain on call. Remaining on call does not itself constitute performing work.” The court further observed that the security guards were permitted to, and did, engage in various non-work activities, including smoking, reading, making personal telephone calls, attending to personal business and surfing the Internet during their rest periods.
Impact: The Appellate Court’s decision further clarifies an employer’s obligations with respect to rest periods under California law. It also highlights the differences between the break requirements for meal periods and rest periods discussed by the California Supreme Court inBrinker. Although employers must authorize and permit their non-exempt employees to take timely rest periods, employees need not be relieved of all duty during that time period, unlike during meal periods.