By: Kyle D. Kring
Recently, in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the Supreme Court of California ruled that employers may not require their employees to remain "on call" during rest periods. The Court noted that, "state law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest periods" and "[d]uring rest periods, employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time."
In Augustus, plaintiff and the members of the class were security guards for defendant ABM. They were required to keep their pages and radios on during rest periods and remain available to answer and respond to calls if the necessary. Plaintiffs alleged that ABM failed to provide uninterrupted rest periods as required by state law and ABM acknowledged the fact. ABM argued that their policy did not violate state law because it simply required the guards to keep their devices on in case an incident arose. Importantly, plaintiffs presented evidence that breaks were regularly uninterrupted.
The trial court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on damages, awarding $90 million, finding that an on-call break is no break at all. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that merely being on-call does not equate to performing work and therefore state law does not require employers to provide off-duty rest periods.