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On-Call Employee Sleep Time Can Count As Compensable ‘Hours Worked’

January 23, 2015 by

On January 8, 2015, the California Supreme Court published an important decision confirming the California rules defining when on-call hours are compensable, and, for the first time, ruling that on-call sleeping hours must be included within compensable hours if the employee is otherwise under sufficient direction and control by the employer.

In Mendiola v. CPS Security Systems Inc., security guards brought a class action lawsuit against their employer, CPS Security Systems, Inc., for unpaid overtime. CPS required guards to stay on the worksite 16 hours per day during the week (eight hours “on duty” and eight hours “on call”) and 24 hours per day on the weekends (sixteen hours “on duty” and eight hours “on call”). CPS deducted up to eight hours of regularly scheduled “sleep time” per 24-hour shift from compensable time, under written agreements all employees were required to sign.

CPS required the guards to reside in a trailer provided by the employer. Guards could not leave their assigned sites during on-call hours until relievers arrived and then could not travel beyond a 30-minute radius of the site.

The Court held that the guards’ on call hours were “hours worked” for overtime purposes under California law. The Court reiterated long-standing precedent that on-call time constitutes hours worked based on the extent of the employer’s control. Factors indicating an employer’s control during on-call time include:

(1) whether there was an on-premises living requirement;

(2) whether there were excessive geographical restrictions on employee’s movements;

(3) whether the frequency of calls was unduly restrictive;

(4) whether a fixed time limit for response was unduly restrictive;

(5) whether the on-call employee could easily trade on-call responsibilities;

(6) whether use of a pager could ease restrictions; and

(7) whether the employee had actually engaged in personal activities during call-in time.

In this case, the Court focused on the fact that guards were required to “reside” in trailers and spend on-call hours at the worksite. Because the guards’ presence on site, even when not actively responding to disturbances, was integral to CPS’ business, CPS had to pay for that time.

Significantly, the Court also held that the guards’ “sleep time” was compensable, and should count towards overtime. In so holding, the Court reversed an earlier decision that relied on federal regulations to exclude sleep time from compensable hours as measured under California  law. The Court concluded that federal working-hours regulations do not apply in California unless explicitly adopted in the relevant state regulations. California Wage Orders have not adopted the federal regulation excluding sleep time from the measure of compensable hours. Thus, because the guards remained under the direction and control of their employer even during sleeping hours, the sleeping hours must be included within the working hours for which they are compensated.

If you have questions about whether you are properly paid for your on-call time or if you think you may not be receiving overtime pay under California law, contact Beeson, Tayer and Bodine.

The material on this website is provided by Beeson, Tayer & Bodine for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented. Some of the articles are updated periodically, and are marked with the date of the last update. Again, readers should consult with their own legal counsel for the most current information and to obtain professional advice before acting on any of the information presented.