The New California Supreme Court Ruling on Rest Breaks

General Overview

On December 22, 2016, the security guard industry in California was affected by a major California Supreme Court ruling in the case of Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. Even though this ruling has been enforced now for just over a year as we start off 2018, it’s an import labor law ruling that many people may still be unaware of.


The New California Supreme Court Ruling on Rest Breaks


The ruling itself by the California Supreme Court stated that employees who are on a rest break can’t be “on call” or “on duty,” as this is in direct violation of the California Labor Code and Wage Orders.

The Background

The case began once Jennifer Augustus filed a class action in representation of the security guards at ABM Security Services. At ABM Security Services, they required that all of their security guards have their radios and/or pagers on them during any rest breaks that they had so that they could respond if need be. The argument made by the Plaintiff was that they were being denied their legally-required rest periods.

While the trial court ruled in favor of the Plaintiff, including awarding them $90 million in damages and fees, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision. Eventually, the California Supreme Court made the final ruling, stating, in their opinion, that if an employee has to be “at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices,” than that employee is not “duty free” after all.

What this Means for Security Companies

Based on this ruling, companies, whether it’s a security company or the company in which the security guard is on duty for, must provide adequate rest breaks to every security guard. In particular, all security officers are subject to the following:

    • Two 10-minute paid rest breaks in which they are relieved from all of their job duties;
    • One paid rest break if the workday is between 3.5 hours to 6 hours;
    • If the workday is between 6 hours to 8 hours in length or longer, than they are entitled to two paid rest breaks;
    • Paid rest breaks should not require them to be in their work areas.

While all employees should be given adequate paid rest breaks, many within the security industry, as well as companies that use security guards for protection, were worried that this would create security vulnerabilities.

How Can Companies Adjust to this Ruling?

Besides making sure that they aren’t in violation of the paid rest break labor laws, companies in California can adjust to the California Supreme Court’s ruling by:

    • Rescheduling paid rest breaks on a reasonable basis if there is a pressing need to do so;
    • Seeking an exemption from the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) for duty-free rest period requirements (Note: This does not mean NO rest breaks, just no duty-free rest breaks).

For more information on rest periods, you can visit the State of California Department of Industrial Relations’s website on the matter at: 

First Security Services always complies with every labor law in the State of California. Make sure to contact us today for your free consultation!