California Security Guard Services Need To Re-Examine Rest-Break Policies and Practices

With the recent ruling from California’s Supreme Court, employers can no longer require employees to be available or on-call during rest periods and breaks. The case brought to the California Supreme Court was in respect to ABM Security Services Inc.’s policy which required their team of security guards to have their communication devices, such as radios and pagers, turned on and respond to the needs of clients if necessary during their breaks. The ruling reversed the 2nd District Court of Appeal and affirmed that, “state law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest periods. During required rest periods, employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time.” This ruling affects the security guard and patrol industry as well as other industries that need employees to be available for immediate response such as healthcare, hospitality, restaurants, call-centers, and more.

The court ruling concluded that during a break, employees must be relieved of work duties and also be freed from employer control over how they spend their time. Employers cannot compel employees “to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices” or “remain at the ready and capable of being summoned to action”.

What the ruling means for employers and security guard scheduling

Repercussions of this ruling will be felt across industries and will be seen in various facets of employee scheduling and security guard scheduling. In regard to the security industry, security and patrol companies must pay attention to how they manage the breaks of their security guards when guards are working alone at customer sites and various locations. Security guard schedulers will now have to ensure another guard or a rover takes over during a scheduled break time, or the site will be un-manned during these rest periods. The employer will not have the ability to call or speak with the employee on their break either, or use this time to talk about company related affairs.

The court ruling did not categorically prohibit employees from ever being called back to work during a rest break. An employer has the “ability to reasonably reschedule a rest period when the need arises,” and provide employees with another rest period to replace the interrupted one. However, the court noted that employers should only do so as an exception due to “irregular or unexpected circumstances such as emergencies…”

California security guard companies should review their on-call and rest period policies and practices. Revisit any on-call requirements imposed on employees while on rest breaks (or meal breaks) to avoid any policies or practices that appear to require work duties or exert control over employee activities during a rest or meal break.

The same will apply to other industries in California that schedule short rest periods for employees. These short rest periods will have to be free from company infringement or mandates that control how employees spend this time. As California tends to be a front-runner where employees’ rights are concerned, it will likely be setting a standard for other states or cities to follow in the near future in regard to no “on-call” laws surrounding security guard scheduling and other employee rest and break periods.

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