Supreme Court Reinstates $89 Million Judgment in Landmark Class Action Employment Suit
Decision expected to carry significant ramifications for the California workplace for years to come.
The Supreme Court of California today overturned an appellate court ruling in the landmark case of Augustus v. ABM Security Services, ending an eleven-year battle and upholding the trial court decision that “on-duty” rest breaks are in violation of California wage and hour laws. The court reinstated the trial court’s award of $89.7 million in wages, interest and penalties to a class of approximately 15,000 former and present ABM security guards. Lead counsel for the class were Drew Pomerance and Michael Adreani of Roxborough, Pomerance, Nye & Adreani, LLP (RPNA).
The Supreme Court’s precedential decision clarifies and sets forth the standard for all California employers to easily follow: that employees need to be relieved of all duties during their rest break.
“This precedential decision clarifies and sets forth the standard for all California employers to easily follow: that employees need to be relieved of all duties during their rest break,” explains Adreani.
The decision originates from RPNA’s trial court victory in 2012 on behalf of a certified class of security guards who were denied off duty rest breaks in violation of California law. ABM Securities previously acknowledged that all of its security guards were required to remain on call during their so-called breaks, which the court found to be illegal. The trial court held that the guards remained “under ABM’s control” during their breaks by having to carry and monitor communication radios to respond to emergencies and other incidents and, thus, were not completely relieved of all duty during their breaks as required by California law. The win was a victory for employees throughout California, as well as for those businesses that lawfully provide off-duty breaks.
The trial court decision was reversed when the court of appeal ruled in favor of ABM Securities in 2014, stating that workers can receive lawful rest breaks even if they are required to perform some of their regular duties. Rather than following the “subject to control” definition of “work” long used in California, the court of appeal based its ruling on a dual definition of the term which had never previously been utilized under California law.
After granting review of the appellate court’s decision, the California Supreme Court has now ended the controversy over employee rest breaks which has been the focus of an eleven-year legal battle.
We expect there will now be less litigation over the issue of rest breaks because employees and employers alike will understand the rights and obligations each have under the law.
“We are very grateful the Supreme Court agreed with what we have believed the law to be and have fought to clarify for the last 11 years,” says Pomerance. “We expect there will now be less litigation over the issue of rest breaks because employees and employers alike will understand the rights and obligations each have under the law.”
Adreani adds that the decision is an important reminder for all employers to revisit and ensure their policies are in line with the law. For a copy of the decision, please click here. For additional questions, please contact Straightline Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org or RPNA at 818-992-9999 | email@example.com.