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Rest Break Reminder

A few months ago I wrote about Augustus v. ABM Security Services, where the court said employer must relieve employees of all duties in order for a rest break to be valid. ABM required the security guards to carry pagers, radios or cell phones during breaks. The court concluded on-call rest breaks are the same as no rest breaks.

Revision to Rest Break Decision

The California Supreme Court revised the opinion slightly, but the holding still stands.  The court changed final sentence in the Conclusion and so that the complete Conclusion now reads as follows:

California law requires employers to relieve their employees of all work-related duties and employer control during 10-minute rest periods.  The trial court’s summary adjudication and summary judgment orders were premised on this understanding of the law.  Rightly so: Wage Order 4, subdivision 12(A) and section 226.7 prohibit on-duty rest periods. What they require instead is 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.  We accordingly reverse the Court of Appeal’s judgment on this issue.  The matter is remanded to the Court of Appeal for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This is not a big shocker, but it is language to remember. Employees must receive duty-free rest breaks. Employers cannot exercise any control over the employee during the rest break. Companies should review their rest break policies to ensure they are relieving employees of all duties during the rest breaks.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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On-Duty Meal Agreement in Care Homes

 

Most employees in California are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted meal break when the employee works at least 5 hours in a day. Employers that fail to provide the required meal break may be subject to a penalty equal to one hour at the employee’s regular rate of pay.  When “the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all duty,” and when the employer and employee enter into a written on-duty meal agreement, the employer may be able to avoid the penalty.  The on-duty meal agreement, however, must “state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time.”

In Palacio v. Jan & Gail’s Care Homes, Inc., an employee brought a class action alleging the employer failed to inform the employees that they had a right to revoke the company’s on-duty meal agreement.  The court not only denied class certification, but also held the care homes do not have to tell employees they can revoke an on-duty meal agreement.

Care Homes do not have to tell employees they can revoke an on-duty meal agreement

But, why?  If the regulations require on-duty meal agreements to contain a provision that the employee may revoke the agreement in writing, how come the court said the employer did not have to have such a provision in the agreement?  Because a different part of the regulations specifically state:

Employees with direct responsibility for children who are under 18 years of age or who are not emancipated from the foster care system and who, in either case, are receiving 24-hour residential care, and employees of 24-hour residential care facilities for the elderly, blind or developmentally disabled individuals may be required to work on-duty meal periods without penalty when necessary to meet regulatory or approved program standards and one of the following two conditions is met:

(1) (a) The residential care employees eats with residents during residents’ meals and the employer provides the same meal at no charge to the employee; or

(b) The employee is in sole charge of the resident(s) and, on the day shift, the employer provides a meal at no charge to the employee.

So, while most employers that can use on-duty meal agreements must inform employees of the right to revoke the on-duty meal agreement at any time, Care Homes do not have to tell employees they can revoke an on-duty meal agreement.  Employers should also be aware that not ever employer can use an on-duty meal agreement.

If you have a question about your on-duty meal agreement, or whether such an agreement is appropriate in your workplace, contact an attorney familiar with on-duty meal agreements.