In a landmark decision affecting workers’ wages, the California Supreme Court recently held that employees who are merely “on call” at the employers’ behest are, in fact, “working” and must be paid their full wages. This is the first case to determine that simply being on call, i.e. being ready to work, is actually working and is compensable time under California’s Wage and Hour Laws.
In Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, security guards were posted for 24 hours at a construction site. They were “on duty” for eight hours, and then “on call” for another eight hours, where they could rest in a trailer on the premises, watch TV, eat, read, surf the internet, etc. However, they could not just leave the premises without the employer’s consent. If they were needed to respond to some event during the eight hours that they were on call, they did so and were paid for the actual time they spent responding to a particular event. After the eight hours of being on call, they were required to sleep on the premises for the remaining eight hours of the day.
The employer of course paid them for the eight hours that they were on duty, but did not pay for on call time unless they had to actively respond. And, as might be expected, the employer did not pay anything for the eight hours of sleep time.
The Supreme Court held that all 24 hours were compensable. The Court stressed that the employer exercised control over the employees, in that they typically could not leave the premises while on call and were likewise required to sleep on the premises. The Court found that all of these requirements were for the benefit of the employer. As such, the Supreme Court held that all on call time was compensable and that the employees must also be paid for the eight hours of sleep time.
This case is extremely important for all California businesses that require their employees to spend more than their eight hour shift on the premises (construction sites, farm workers, in home health care, etc.). As long as the employees’ presence benefits the employer, and the employer exercises some restrictions over the employees’ activities, then the employer is likely going to be required to pay the employee for all hours the employee is present – both while they were on duty and also while they are merely “on call”. Consult with an employment law attorney if you think this case might affect your business.
Drew E. Pomerance is an experienced employment lawyer and managing partner of RPNA Law.