Do You Need A Day To Rest? California Says - YES!
Updated: May 29, 2020
Wouldn’t it be nice if your employer would limit either the number of hours you work in a week or limit the number of days you must work?
If you are an hourly employee or do not qualify for an exemption, you may be in luck because the California Labor Code has rules as to how much you are required to work!
On May 8, 2017, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc. The Mendoza Court interpreted the California Labor Code’s "Day of Rest” statutory provisions. Mendoza was a class-action lawsuit where Nordstrom’s hourly retail employees asserted that they were "entitled" to "one day's rest in seven" days because, under California Labor Code sections 551 and 552, no employer may "cause" its employees "to work more than six days in seven.” Nordstrom’s employees were often asked and allowed to "pick-up" previously unscheduled shifts, causing them to work more than seven days in a row. In Mendoza, the Court clarified the Day of Rest’s statutory provision.
FIRST AND FOREMOST:
The Mendoza Court concluded that employers must notify its employees of their right to a day of rest. Employers must ensure that its employees are aware of this Labor Code provision upon hire or soon thereafter.
WHAT IS A WORKWEEK?
The Mendoza Court concluded that a workweek is Sunday – Saturday. The Court declined to find that a workweek was any rolling period of seven days' work. Therefore, in theory, an employer who schedules under the typical Sunday – Saturday workweek could satisfy the Day of Rest requirement by scheduling a back-to-back weekend every other week.
WHAT DOES “CAUSE HIS EMPLOYEES TO WORK MORE THAN SIX DAYS IN SEVEN” REALLY MEAN?
Instead of choosing between the Nordstrom’s argument and its’ employee’s arguments, the Mendoza Court considered their arguments and formed its own opinion and interpretation of the rule. The Court interpreted the “cause his employees to work” clause as follows:
“[A]n 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."
As such, if it is the employees HONEST and PERSONAL choice to work on a seventh day, such that you are making it freely without being expressly or implicitly encouraged to work, your employer may not be liable for violating these provisions.
ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS?
As is the case with most laws, there are exceptions to the rule. Section 556 of the California Labor Code allows an employer to schedule an employee for a seventh (7) day of work so long as the employee’s hours “do not exceed 30 hours in any week” and the employee does not work “six hours in any one day.”
The Mendoza Court interpretation of Section 556 is favorable to employees. The Court decided that both requirements of Section 556’s must be met before the exception applies. Simply put: For the exception to apply, an employee cannot work more than six (6) hours on any given day AND an employees hours may not exceed thirty (30) hours in a workweek.
For example, assuming a Sunday-Saturday schedule, if an employee were to work four (4) hours a day for seven (7) days straight (28 hours total) there would be no violation because the employee worked under 6 hours a day and less than 30 hours a week.
Another example, assuming a Sunday-Saturday schedule, if an employee were to work five (5) hours a day for seven (7) days straight (35 hours total), Section 556 would not apply because the second factor (less than 30 hours a week requirement) was not met.
Final example, assuming a Sunday-Saturday schedule, if an employee were to work four (3) hours a day for six (6) days and seven (7) hours on the seventh day days straight (25 hours total), Section 556 would not apply because the first factor (less than six (6) hours on in one workday) was not met.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?
If your employer has not explained these rights to you, you do not have a choice in deciding whether to work seven (7) days a week and work over six (6) hours in any single day or thirty (30) hours in the workweek, and you are an hourly employee, you may want to contact an employment law attorney to determine if you have a case.
If you feel that this article may apply to you and your situation, do not hesitate to give me a call as there may be time limits for bringing a claim.
Disclaimer: All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about Lansdown Law, its services, and experience. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.