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Labor & Employment Legal Alert
May 24, 2017              

California's "Day of Rest" Requirement

The California Supreme Court recently clarified the California Labor Code's requirement that employers must provide their employees a "day of rest" in Mendoza v. Nordstrom Inc., No. S224611 (May 8, 2017). The Labor Code prohibits an employer from "caus[ing] [its] employees to work more than six days in seven" (Lab. Code § 552), but provides two exceptions. First, "when the nature of the employment reasonably requires that the employee work seven or more consecutive days, if in each calendar month the employee receives days of rest equivalent to one day's rest in seven." (Id. at § 554, subd. (a).) Second, "when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof." (Id. at § 556.) The Court clarified three questions related to the day-of-rest requirements.

1. How do employers calculate when an employee is guaranteed a day of rest?

The Court concluded that "[a] day of rest is guaranteed for each workweek," which the Labor Code defines as "any seven consecutive days, starting with the same calendar day each week." (Lab. Code § 500, subd. (b).) The Court further explained that under this rule, "[p]eriods of more than six consecutive days of work that stretch across more than one workweek are not per se prohibited." This means that as long as an employee receives the equivalent of one day's rest for every seven days in a workweek over the course of a month, an employee may be required to work for more than six consecutive days without violating the Labor Code. For instance, if an employer provides an employee with a day of rest at the beginning and at the end of two workweeks, an employee could be required to work up to twelve consecutive days in between those two days of rest, as illustrated here:

  Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Workweek 1 Rest Work Work Work Work Work Work
Workweek 2 Work Work Work Work Work Work Rest

In other words, Labor Code §§ 551 and 552 are to be applied on a workweek basis – not a seven-day rolling basis. All employers should evaluate the configuration of their current workweeks so that they are best positioned not to create an inadvertent violation of the Labor Code's day-of-rest provisions. 

2. How is the exemption applied to employees working shifts of six hours or less?

The exemption for employees working shifts of six hours or less applies only to those who never exceed six hours of work on any day of the workweek. Therefore, if an employee works more than six hours on any one day of a workweek, a day of rest must be provided during that workweek (so long as no other exceptions apply).

3. What does it mean for an employer to 'cause' an employee to go without a day of rest?

An employer is prohibited from encouraging or inducing an employee to forgo a day of rest to which he or she is entitled. However, an employer is not forbidden from allowing an employee – who the employer has fully apprised of his or her entitlement to a day of rest – the independent choice to forgo a day of rest. According to the Court's opinion, employers must "maintain absolute neutrality as to the exercise of that right."

Employer Best Practices

In light of this decision, employers should include a provision in their employee handbooks that (i) defines the workweek (e.g., Sunday to Saturday, or Monday to Sunday, etc.), and (ii) advises employees of their entitlement to one day of rest per workweek. Employers might also consider requiring employees to give written consent each time the employee chooses to forgo a day of rest within a workweek.

Melissa Bell Melissa K. Bell
Litigation | Labor & Employment
Los Angeles
(949) 851-5440
(949) 553-8354 (fax)
Email Melissa

Dwight Armstrong Dwight L. Armstrong
Labor & Employment | Litigation
Orange County
(949) 851-5424
(949) 553-8354 (fax)
Email Dwight

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