Rest Breaks Must Be Completely “Off-Duty”

By: Rebecca Hause-Schultz
In a decision unfavorable to employers, the California Supreme Court in Augustus v. ABM Security recently ruled that employees must be relieved of all duties and relinquish all control over employees during rest periods. At issue in the case, the defendant employer, a security company, required its security guard employees to keep pagers and radio phones turned on and with them during rest periods. The Court reasoned that on-duty or on-call rest periods require employees to essentially perform free work, meaning that the employee receives the same amount of compensation for working through the rest periods as the employee would have had the employee been permitted to take off-duty rest periods.
The Court held that even through employees were required just to keep their radio phones and pagers on, and may not necessarily be interrupted during their break, the practice compelled “employees to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices.” Thus, the Court concluded that the employees did not receive an off-duty break, in violation of the law.
This case highlights how critical it is for employees to be relieved of all duties and not be “on-call” during rest periods. Further, employers should ensure that employees receive a total of no less than ten net minutes of rest period time for each rest break. If you have questions as to whether your company’s rest break policy is lawful, please contact the Saqui Law Group.