The California Supreme Court just decided a case holding that employers may have to pay employees for sleeping on the job. Yes, you read that correctly. As long as the on-call time is spent benefitting the company the employee is likely entitled to payment. Security guards employed by CPS Security Solutions, Inc. (CPS) sued claiming that they should have been paid for time they spent sleeping at work. The security guards employed by CPS were required to reside in a trailer provided by CPS. The CPS security guards were only compensated for “on-call” hours if circumstances arose at the construction site that required investigation. The Court held that CPS’s wage policy violated the law, which defines hours worked in terms of the employer’s “control” of the employee. This means that the time the security guards spent waiting for a disturbance constituted a benefit to CPS, and, therefore, the employee should be paid.While most employers do not require employees to sleep on the job, this case is important for any employer that requires an employee to remain “on-call.” If you do, make sure to review your policies to ensure that the employee is not: 1) benefiting you during on-call periods; and 2) subject to your control during these hours. If so, you may need to pay them for this time – even if they are asleep.
California employers recently achieved a big win regarding employee rest breaks. A Los Angeles Superior Court recently ruled that a class of security guards were denied rest breaks because their employer required them to keep their cell phones on them during breaks and respond to emergencies during breaks. The trial court granted the class $90 million in damages. The appellate court reversed after finding that the employees were given adequate rest breaks even if required to remain on call. The court noted that remaining available to work is not the same as actually working. The court further differentiates between a meal break (which is unpaid) and a rest break (which is paid). What does this mean for employers? You should verify that nonexempt employees are receiving a paid, 10-minute rest period for every 3.5 hours of work. However, employers can rest assured that asking employees to remain on call during rest breaks complies with California wage and hour laws.
This is a reminder that, under California's new sick pay law, employees must start accruing paid sick time starting July 1, 2015. Employers must make sure employees are properly accruing sick pay and providing sick pay to all eligible employees. Employers should also ensure that their employee handbooks are compliant. A handbook inconsistent with the law can create substantial exposure.