LOS ANGELES — The California Supreme Court recently handed down a significant ruling on wage and labor laws in the state that has important ramifications for both workers and employers attempting to make sense of laws dating back to the 18th Century. Specifically, the court considered when employers need offer workers their mandatory “day of rest” and under what circumstances companies may be exempt from providing such a break from the work week.
Under California wage and labor laws Section 551, workers must be given one day off every seven days. However, employers are under no obligation to provide the day of rest if the employee works fewer than 30 hours in a week or six hours in a single day. The main issue is whether the language constitutes a rolling seven-day period or during the calendar week and to what extent the exceptions preclude employers from scheduling employees off during the seven-day work period.
The court interpreted the statute to mean that seven days constitutes a calendar work week and not seven consecutive or rolling days. The ruling is important because employers can theoretically schedule workers for up to 12 consecutive days without a break so long as the employee’s schedule is bookended by one day off.
Furthermore, the court determined employers must offer workers the day of rest if the employee works more than six-hours in any given shift during the week. The court ruled a disjunctive reading of the statute would be “less protective” to employee welfare. This ruling affirms time off protections to many vulnerable workers in the state.
Finally, the court determine employees can voluntarily waive their right to a day of rest during the calendar week but cannot be coerced by the employer. Such coaxing can include offering overtime wages in lieu of the day off. In its opinion, the court wrote “payment of overtime is not an impermissible employer inducement; it is, instead, simply compliance with a federal- and state-imposed legal obligation.”
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