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Breaks and Premium Pay? California Supreme Court to Review Break and Pay Policies for Ambulance Workers

SUMMARY: The Plaintiff, an ambulance driver worked 24-hour shifts, was paid for all 24-hours and received his meal and rest breaks, but was on call for emergencies during them.  The employee claimed California law entitles him to premium pay (meaning one hour of additional pay) plus his wages because the company did not “relieve” him of “all duties” during the breaks.  The trial court dismissed the case, granting summary judgment in favor of the employer.  The employee appealed.

QUESTION FOR THE SUPREME COURT : The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal asked the California Supreme Court to clarify the employer’s obligations.  The California Supreme Court will determine to what extent an employer must relieve workers of “all duties” to avoid liability for premium pay.

TAKEAWAYS : Businesses may wish to take a conservative approach and to ensure they relieve their workers of all duties during meal and rest breaks.  They may also wish to audit their payroll practices to ensure they pay for “on-duty” meal breaks that workers regularly take “on duty.”  

Stewart v. San Luis Ambulance, Inc.
Please contact David Jones for further information about these cases pending before the California Supreme Court.