CHA News Article

California Supreme Court Opinion Clarifies Employee Day of Rest Rules

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Mendoza v. Nordstrom clarifying California’s day of rest rules, which are set forth in Labor Code sections 551, 552 and 556. As previously reported in CHA News, the case was presented to the Supreme Court through a request by the Ninth Circuit. In short, the court interpreted the day of rest rules as follows:

  • One day of rest is guaranteed for each workweek. Periods of more than six consecutive days of work that stretch across more than one workweek are not, per se, prohibited.
  • The exemption for employees working shifts of six hours or less applies only to those who never exceed six hours of work on any day of the workweek. If on any one day an employee works more than six hours, a day of rest must be provided during that workweek, subject to other exceptions that might apply.
  • An employer causes its employee to go without a day of rest when it induces the employee to forgo rest to which he or she is entitled. An employer is not, however, forbidden from permitting or allowing an employee, fully apprised of the entitlement to rest, to independently choose not to take a day of rest.

This issue has significant implications for California hospitals, as many employees — such as those in pharmacy or laboratory departments who utilize a seven days on/seven days off schedule — work seven consecutive days. Further, with self-scheduling and extra shift compensation incentives, many employees voluntarily schedule themselves for seven consecutive days. 

Recognizing the significance of the issue to California hospitals, CHA joined an amicus brief filed by the Employer’s Group in November 2015 to support defendant Nordstrom’s position, as well as to explain that the court’s ruling could impact patient care and hospital operations.  

It is important to note that, while the opinion clarified some issues relating to California’s day of rest requirements, it did not provide guidance on another issue important to hospitals — the circumstances under which the nature of employment allows accumulated rest days to be taken at a different time during the month. 

Specifically, California Labor Code section 554 provides an exception from the day of rest requirement where the “nature of the employment reasonably requires that the employee work seven or more consecutive days, if in each calendar month the employee receives days of rest equivalent to one day’s rest in seven.” The Mendoza decision did not address the lack of guidance related to this issue.

Hospitals should review the Mendoza decision and their practices to ensure compliance with the recent decision, and should evaluate other scheduling practices that may raise legal risk.