California Supreme Court clarifies day of rest law

California's law requires workers get a day off every week. This case delves into what that means.

There are a number of laws and regulations that are in place to help ensure that workers are treated fairly. Rules are present at local, state and federal levels. A failure to follow these laws can result in a violation of an employee's legal rights. This can lead to a lawsuit to hold the employer accountable for these violations. One recent example questioned a state law that is designed to help ensure workers do not work too many days in a row.

What was the issue in this case?

The case, Mendoza v. Nordstrom, made it to the highest court in California. This case sought to clarify a law found in the California Labor Code. Section 551 of this law states that every employee "is entitled to one days' rest therefrom in seven." Section 556 provides an exception to this requirement in instances when the employee works less than 30 hours per week or six hours per day.

This case questions these sections. The first question revolves around how a workweek is calculated. Is it seven days straight days or can these work days roll into the next week? Can an employee have off Monday, work the entire work week, start the second workweek and then not have off until Sunday or must the break occur within a seven day period? The next set of questions involves whether the six hour exception only applies if every work shift is under the six hour mark or can it apply if only one shift is under this time limit?

What did the court decide?

Ultimately, the court decided that the law was designed to ensure that workers got a break during each workweek, that this law should not be interpreted to provide a day off every seven days. As such, a worker could potentially work 12 days in a row and not be in violation of this law.

When it comes to the questions about the exception, the court clarified that it applied to workers who work no more than 30 hours per week. In these situations, the worker can decide if he or she wants to continue to work or take a day of rest.

What does this mean for employees?

Employers that require employees to work more than 12 full days in a row are likely in violation of the day of rest rule. In these situations, employees can hold their employers responsible for these violations. It is wise to seek legal counsel if you believe your employer is not following these regulations. An experienced employment attorney can review the details of your situation and discuss what legal remedies are available.