California Supreme Court Clarifies When Employees are Entitled to a “Day of Rest”
May 25, 2017 by Lorrie Bradley
The California Labor Code contains a requirement that generally prohibits employees from working “more than six days in seven,” with certain exceptions. For example, the requirement that employees have one day’s rest in seven excludes workers who work 30 hours or less in a week, or 6 hours or less in a day.
Employees of Nordstrom in California recently sued the company in federal court, claiming that the company did not provide them with the “days of rest” the law requires. As part of the lawsuit, the federal court asked the California Supreme Court to clarify several issues regarding the law. Those issues were: (1) whether the “day of rest” is based on a calendar week or on a “rolling” weekly basis, (2) whether the exemption for workers who work six hours or less means that the worker must routinely work six hours or less, or only one day a week, and (3) what it means for an employer to “cause” an employee to go without their day of rest.
The Supreme Court decided that the week to be measured for purposes of the one day’s rest is a calendar week. In other words, if an employee has a day off early in one calendar week, and has a day off at the end of the second calendar week, that employee might work more than six days in a row but still meet the Labor Code’s requirement for one day’s rest in seven.
The Court decided that the exception for employees who work six hours or less a day only applies to those employees who work six hours or less each day of the calendar week. In other words, an employee with a variable schedule working more than six hours on some days and less on others is covered by the day-of-rest rule. Only employees who work less than six hours a day on all of the calendar week’s working days qualifies for the exception.
Finally, the Supreme Court clarified that an employer cannot force an employee to give up the weekly day of rest, but will not be penalized if an employee chooses to forgo the day. The Supreme Court took a middle position that allows employers to let employees know about their entitlement to a day of rest and but otherwise remain neutral. In other words, the employer cannot encourage workers to give up their day of rest, but is not required to prevent them from skipping it.
More information on this decision here.
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