Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ruled in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. that employers must relieve employees of all work duties during their 10-minute rest breaks. This landmark decision now means that employers must treat rest breaks and meal breaks the same — and that employers must relinquish all control over employees during both break periods.
In the Augustus case, the employer required employees to remain “on call” during their rest breaks — specifically, employees were required to carry their pagers and radios, to have them on during their breaks, and to respond to calls and situations as needs arose. The California Supreme Court held that this practice was illegal under California law. According to the Court, Labor Code §226.7 and Wage Order 4 both require 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. A rest period, in short, must be a period of rest.”
As a result of the Court’s ruling, the plaintiff employees’ original trial court result — a verdict in the employees’ favor for $90 million — was reinstated. Employers will want to consider taking the following actions as a result of this new decision:
1. Review existing employee handbook and other policy documents to ensure that the language in those documents is consistent with this new decision.
2. Ensure that you relinquish all control over non-exempt employees during their rest breaks.
3. Ensure that you relieve non-exempt employees from all duties or expectations during their rest breaks.
4. Train managers and supervisors to respect non-exempt employees’ break times and not to interrupt or disturb them.
5. Add language to your existing employee handbook or other policy documents instructing non-exempt employees to notify a supervisor or manager in the event the employee’s break is ever interrupted or disturbed.
6. For any non-exempt employee who has a rest break interrupted or disturbed, the employer must either (a) provide another duty-free rest break to replace the one that was missed, or (b) pay the employee one hour of premium pay due to the employer’s failure to provide a proper rest break.
You can read the California Supreme Court’s opinion in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. here.