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What is a Duty-Free Rest Break?

For those of you traveling, it has nothing to do with time spent at the airport duty-free shop! Instead, it has everything to do with what a California employer can require of its employees during a rest break, which is nothing. Last week the California Supreme Court ruled in the case of Augustus v. ABM Security Servs. Inc. finding that ABM Security Services, Inc. could not require its security guards to be available by radio during their 10-minute rest breaks in case of an emergency. The Court looked at the statutory scheme and determined that such “on-call” arrangements are irreconcilable with the requirement that an employee be relieved of all duties and free to use rest breaks however he or she sees fit. In reviewing the wages orders that govern various industries, the Court found that only one permitted on-call breaks—Wage Order 5, which governs employees who provide 24-hour residential care for minors—and employees subject to Wage Order 5 (and only those employees) are required to have a make-up break if called on. So what does this mean for California employers governed by wage orders other than Wage Order 5? Make sure you provide your employees with 10-minute rest breaks for every four-hour shift that are truly a break, one that is free from the demands of the job. Employees may leave their computers and desks and, if time permits, the building too! It’s 10 minutes they get to use however they see fit.

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 363

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