Must an employer compensate 24-hour shift employee for on-site sleep time?

Posted in: Employment Law by Steven Vartabedian on

on-site-sleep-timeIn my December 18, 2013 blog article, I commented on the California Supreme Court action in granting review of and depublishing the Court of Appeal opinion in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions Inc. I noted there may be no safe haven to allow most employers to contract away employees’ claims for wages for employer-controlled sleep time, which had been allowed by the Court of Appeal ruling.   Of course, we would learn more once the Supreme Court decided the matter.

The Supreme Court has now decided the matter in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc. (filed 1/8/15) S212704. It held that, under California Wage Order 4, which covers a large group of professional/technical/clerical type employees including security guards, employees are entitled to compensation for all on-call hours spent at their assigned worksites under the employer’s control, including sleep time. The Court of Appeal opinion, which provided that, while the guards must be compensated for 16 hours of the day during which they were on-duty or on-call, eight hours of the 24-hour shift could be excluded from compensation as agreed upon by the parties, was affirmed in part and reversed in part. (See July 12, 2013 blog for a discussion of the Court of Appeal opinion.)

In a nutshell, “an employee who is subject to an employer’s control does not have to be working during that time to be compensated,” cited the Supreme Court from its earlier opinion in Morillion v. v. Royal Packing Co. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 575, 582. An employer may not contractually remove this right by contract. Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc. (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 16, had approved of such contracts, but that case must be limited to the application of Wage Order 9 to ambulance drivers and attendants. To the extent that Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 361 extended Monzon beyond Wage Order 9, the Supreme Court in Mendiola disapproved Seymore, which the appellate court in this matter had relied upon.

Another point emphasized by the Supreme Court in Mendiola is that California’s law including its Wage Orders made by the now-defunct IWC may permissibly provide more protection to employees than the federal provisions provided in the FLSA. So even if federal law does not support sleep time pay, California may so provide, as it does.

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