Top court ruling on rest days gives employers more flexibility

A California Supreme Court ruling on rest days has given employers greater scheduling flexibility.

California's employment laws can be particularly difficult for employers to abide by. Even a technical error or misreading of one's obligations can result in costly litigation against an employer. The problem is especially acute if the laws in question are sometimes written in a way that employers have trouble understanding what their legal obligations actually are. That was the issue during a recent California Supreme Court ruling on the state's day of rest statute. As Reuters reports, the ruling ultimately provided clarification on the law and gave employers greater flexibility in how they schedule employees' shifts.

A day of rest

The state's top court was tasked with clarifying Section 552 of the Labor Code, which forbids an employer from "caus[ing] his employees to work more than six days in seven." As the San Francisco Business Times points out, this prohibition does not clarify whether the day of rest is based on the workweek or on a rolling basis to a consecutive seven-day period.

The California Supreme Court ruled that the mandatory day of rest is to be calculated based on the workweek. That ruling is significant because it means that employers have flexibility in scheduling workers' shifts. An employee could work more than seven consecutive days, for example, and still be in compliance with the day of rest statute so long as that employee was given at least one day of rest for each workweek.

Obligations and exceptions

The court also had to clarify what Section 552 meant when it prohibited employers from "causing" their employees to work more than six days in seven. The court again gave employers flexibility on this point. The court ruled that employers must inform employees of their right to a day of rest, but they are not required to actually force that employee to take a day of rest. In other words, an employer cannot threaten an employee with dismissal or discipline if they choose to take a day of rest, but if an employee chooses to work on their day of rest then the employer is under no obligation to prevent them from doing so.

Finally, the court clarified an exception to the day of rest statute. Section 556 of the Labor Code states that the day of rest statute does not apply "when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof." On this issue the court ruled against the employer, which had argued that so long as the employee worked less than six hours in a single day during a workweek then the employer was not required to provide a rest day. The court disagreed, ruling that if the employee worked more than six hours on any single day during the workweek then that employee must be provided a rest day.

Employment law help

Overall, the above ruling provides employers greater flexibility in how they schedule their employees' workweeks. The ruling, however, is also a reminder of how complicated and technical California's employment laws can be. Businesses that find themselves accused of violating an employee's rights need legal counsel as soon as possible. An experienced business litigation firm can help businesses understand their legal obligations and deal with any employment law dispute effectively and efficiently.