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The California Supreme Court Clarifies Day of Rest Statutes

On May 8, 2017, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., No. S224611, 2017 WL 1833143 (Cal. May 8, 2017), clarifying California’s day of rest statutes (California Labor Code Sections 550-558.1), which prohibit an employer from “caus[ing] his employees to work more than six days in seven,” but do not apply “when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any day thereof.”  The California Supreme Court answered three important questions.

(1) Is the day of rest calculated by workweek or does it apply on a rolling basis to any seven-consecutive-day period?

The day of rest is calculated by workweek.  It is not per se prohibited to require an employee to work seven consecutive days that stretch across more than one workweek.

(2) Does the exemption for workers employed six hours or less apply so long as the employee works less than six hours on at least one day of the applicable workweek, or does it only apply when an employee works no more than six hours on each and every day of the week?

The exemption applies only to employees who work less than six hours each day of the workweek.

(3) What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to go a day without rest?

An employer “causes” an employee to go a day without rest when it induces the employee to forgo rest to which the employee is entitled.  The “employer’s obligation is to apprise employees of their entitlement to a day of rest and thereafter to maintain absolute neutrality as to the exercise of that right.  An employer may not encourage its employees to forgo rest or conceal the entitlement to rest, but is not liable simply because an employee chooses to work a seventh day.”

Employers who violate “day of rest” laws face criminal liability and are subject to the following civil penalties: $50 for the initial violation and $100 for each subsequent violation in addition to an amount sufficient to recover underpaid wages.  An employer may also be subject to civil penalties under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).  Employees covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBAs”) are excluded from coverage under the day of rest statutes if there is a provision in the CBAs expressly providing that the day of rest statutes do not apply.

Employers doing business in California whose employees regularly work seven days in any workweek should review their policies and should contact legal counsel to make sure they are properly complying with California Labor Code Sections 550-558.1, as interpreted by the California Supreme Court.