California Supreme Court Puts to Rest Labor Code Interpretation

Corporate Law and Governance   |   Hospitality   |   Labor & Employment   |   May 9, 2017
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Like the Good Lord, California employees are guaranteed one day of rest every workweek under a new California Supreme Court decision, which will have broad implications for employers in California, especially those in the retail and food service industries.

In this week’s unanimous opinion, the California Supreme Court analyzed a maze of state statutes so convoluted that the federal Ninth Circuit had to ask the California court to interpret. In Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., S224611, 9th Cir. Nos. 12-57130/12-57144, the California Supreme Court clarified the confusion and gave California employers needed guidance:

  • Rest Day Guaranteed. The California Supreme Court reaffirmed that every California worker who works more than 30 hours in a workweek and at least six hours in any given workday is statutorily guaranteed at least one day of rest that workweek. Interpreting California Labor Code Sections 551 and 552, the California Supreme Court rejected employer Nordstrom’s contention that the statutes were to be read together. Instead, the court said in order to qualify for the guaranteed day of rest, any employee who works more than six hours in any given workday in a workweek or for a total of 30 hours in that workweek must be afforded a day of rest and cannot be required to work even part-time on all seven days.
  • Waiver. However, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed that the employee can waive the seventh day of rest, so long as the employee is paid overtime and advised of his or her statutory rights guaranteeing a day off for rest.
  • “Workweek” definition. The workweek in California is seven days but need not necessarily run Monday through Sunday. It can run from a Thursday to the following Wednesday or a Tuesday through the following Monday. However once the workweek is set, the employer cannot vary it, but must follow a set pattern. Nevertheless, this provides greater flexibility for employers so long as they act consistently.  
  • Not every California employee is entitled to a day of rest. Part-time employees who work both less than 30 hours in a workweek and less than six hours in any given work day that week are exempted from this guarantee. Thus, employers can adjust work schedules to provide greater flexibility for part-time employees.

A copy of the decision, Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., S224611, 9th Cir. Nos. 12-57130/12-57144, is attached to this alert. Should you have any questions regarding the impact of Sections 551 and 552 and the court’s decision, please contact us.

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