California Supreme Court Upholds On-call & Sleep Time Pay For Security Guards

According to a recent ruling by the California Supreme Court, security guards that work an overnight shift–or for more than 24 hours–must be paid for their sleep time under certain conditions. In addition to sleep wage agreements, the ruling also addressed paid on-call hours as it relates to security guards that stay in onsite living quarters.


The ruling confirmed the “hours worked” stipulation set forth under Wage Order 4 under the Industrial Welfare Commission that includes on-call hours (you can find more information about wage orders and read the text here). The Supreme Court also struck down a ruling by the Court of Appeals that would have excluded sleep time from inclusion in “hours worked.”


The case, Tim Mendiola et al v. CPS Security Solutions, centered around security guards at construction sites that were housed in onsite trailers during their off hours. These hours had been constituted as sleep time and were excluded from the hours for which employees were compensated due to a wage agreement that guards signed with the company. Similarly, guards were not compensated for their on-call hours, which they also had to spend onsite or nearby, in case they were needed.


The California Court of Appeal had initially ruled that security guards must be compensated for their on-call time–not just when called to duty–but did not have to be paid for sleep time. The Supreme Court reversal of the sleep time decision (and confirmation of the on-call decision) means that security guards that work a 24-hour onsite shift must be paid for the entirety of it under similar conditions.


Potential Impact & California Labor Law

The decision, which came down on Jan. 8, is a benefit to security guards that put in long hours, but it may force some companies to reassess how they approach security staffing. Where it once may have made financial sense to have onsite security guard because of the sleep time and on-call wage exclusions, contract security firms and their customers must both be mindful of the potential costs increases that come with 24-hour security.


California labor law stipulates that on-call time should be paid in certain circumstances in which the employer has a high level of control over the employee. This includes restricting on-call hours to the point that it infringes on personal activities during off hours. According to the California Supreme Court, the Mendiola case met these requirements for compensation, which is why they must now pay guards for the additional hours. The same policies were the reasoning behind the decision for paid sleep time for the CPS security guards.


If you’d like to know more information about the Mendiola v. CPS case, you can click here to read the case recap from the National Law Review.