Employee’s On-Call Hours Spent On-Premises Counts as Hours Worked

By lfsuser on January 17, 2015

The California Supreme Court recently held unanimously in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc. that the California wage order covering security guards entitles them to be compensated for any on-call hours spent at their assigned worksites.

In Mendiola, security guards were required to remain on-premises (construction worksites) and on-call during times when they were not on active patrol. During their on-call time, security guards were required by written agreement to reside in trailers provided by the employer and located at the construction worksites. The security guards were allowed to stay in their trailers during their on-call time. Although the security guards were paid hourly for the time they actually worked patrolling the worksites, they were not paid for their on-call time unless (1) an alarm or other circumstance required that they conduct an investigation or (2) they waited for, or had been denied, a reliever to take over for them.

The California Supreme Court affirmed the lower Court of Appeal’s decision that on-call hours consisted compensable “hours worked” due to (1) the extent of the employer’s control during on-call hours (i.e. when an employer directs, commands or restrains an employee from leaving the work place and thus prevents the employee from using the time effectively for his or her own purpose) and (2) the fact that the guards’ presence on worksites primarily benefitted the employer.

As to the extent of the employer’s control, the California Supreme Court found that the guards were required to “reside” in their trailers as a condition of employment and spend on-call hours in their trailers or elsewhere at the worksite. They were also obligated to respond immediately in uniform if they had to respond to an emergency. The guards could also not easily trade on-call responsibilities as they could only request relief from a dispatcher and then wait to see if a reliever was available. Even if a guard was relieved, they had to report where they were going, could not be more than 30 minutes away from the site, and were subject to recall.

In addition to being compensated for on-call hours, the Court ruled that the security guards were also entitled to compensation for “sleep time” (8 hours of a security guard’s 24-hour shift) from those security guards who worked 24-hour shifts. The Court reasoned that the employees were sleeping on premises, they were restricted and, thus, they were “engaged to wait.”

It should be noted that the Court’s ruling does not apply to special rules applicable to ambulance drivers or to specific sleep provisions contained in Wage Order Nos. 5 and 9. Further, federal regulations that allow on-premises employees to be uncompensated when they are free to engage in personal pursuits are not affected by this ruling.

A copy of the opinion can be read here.

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