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Supreme Court of California Finds On-Call Time Compensable Under California Labor Law

Published by on February 15, 2015

The Supreme Court of California recently held that security guards who were required to be “on-call” as part of their security duties were entitled to compensation for their on-call time.  CPS Security Solutions, Inc. (“CPS”) provided 24-hour security for its clients’ construction sites.  During weekdays, officers assigned to the construction site were required to patrol […]

The Supreme Court of California recently held that security guards who were required to be “on-call” as part of their security duties were entitled to compensation for their on-call time.  CPS Security Solutions, Inc. (“CPS”) provided 24-hour security for its clients’ construction sites.  During weekdays, officers assigned to the construction site were required to patrol for one eight-hour shift, be on-call for an additional eight-hour shift and then were off duty for the final eight hours of the day.

On weekends, the guards patrolled for sixteen hours and then were on-call for eight hours. Guards who were on-call were required to reside in employer-provided trailers and were not permitted to leave without informing a dispatcher that they were leaving and when they would be back. Per their agreement with CPS, guards were paid for patrol time but were not compensated for their on-call time.

The security employees filed a class action against CPS, which was appealed to the Supreme Court of California. On appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the on-call hours constituted compensable work hours under California Wage Order 4. Further, the Court held that any time the guards spent engaging in personal activities like sleeping, eating, showering, watching television or accessing the internet while on-call was also compensable time.

The Supreme Court found that the limited personal activities was offset by the employer’s high degree of control over the guards during the on-call periods. If requested, on-call guards had to immediately respond in uniform to any dispatcher calls or other suspicious activity they saw while on-call. Further, the guards were not permitted to leave the construction site without notifying the dispatcher and waiting for relief to arrive. If no relief came, the guards could not leave. When the guards were allowed to leave, they could not travel more than 30 minutes away from the worksite and were subject to immediate callback.

The Court stated that having security staff on hand 24 hours a day was an integral part of CPS’ business, and therefore, any on-call time was for the benefit of CPS and compensable.

Laconic Lookout: California employers should be aware that any time you require an employee to be at a certain location or perform a task, even if that task is just to be available if needed, the employee’s time could be compensable. One of the big factors in the above case was that the employees had to “reside” in the employer-provided trailers and had very limited ability to leave the premises. If CPS had instituted less restrictive requirements on their employees’ on-call period, they may have avoided liability.

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