California Supreme Court Holds On-Call Time For Security Guards Is Fully Compensable Under California Wage Orders

In Mendiola et al v. CPS Security Solutions, et al.,  (2015) 2015 WL 107082, the California Supreme Court held that security guards at a construction site were entitled to compensation for all on-call hours spent at their assigned worksites, including sleeping time, as they were under their employer’s control for the entirety of the on-call time.  

CPS Security Solutions (“CPS”) employed on-call security guards to provide twenty-four hour security at construction worksites.  Each evening, CPS guards were required to be on-call onsite and respond to disturbances or alarms when needed.  The on-call guards were required to reside in a trailer provided by CPS during their on-call time.  While guards could generally use their on-call time as they chose, they were not allowed children, pets, alcohol, or unapproved visitors.  If an on-call guard wished to leave the worksite, he was required to notify a dispatcher and wait until a relief guard arrived, if one was available.  If no relief guard was available, the on-call guard had to remain onsite, no matter the reason for needing relief, including a personal emergency.  If relieved, the on-call guard had to be accessible by pager or radio phone and able to return to the site within 30 minutes.  

Guards were compensated for time patrolling the worksite but otherwise received no compensation for on-call time unless an alarm triggered or other circumstances required they investigate a disturbance or they were waiting for, and were denied, a relief from duty.  Guards were paid for the actual time investigating disturbances.  If that time stretched to more than three hours, they were paid for the full eight hours of on-call time. 

The California Supreme Court held that under the California Wage Order covering security guards, the entire time that the guards spent on-call was compensable, including any “sleeping” time.  Per Wage Order 4, applicable to security guards, “hours worked” was defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.”  The California Supreme Court held that that the level of control an employer exerts over the employee during the employee’s call time is determinative of whether on-call time constitutes hours worked.

The Court determined that the guard’s time on call constituted hours worked within the meaning of the wage order.  The Court held that the guards’ on-call time was spent primarily for the benefit of CPS and was integral to CPS’ business.  The Court rejected the argument that because the guards could engage in some personal activities during the on-call time this was not compensable time and reiterated that it was the extent of employer control that rendered the on-call time compensable.

The Court further held that any sleep time could not be excluded from the guard’s 24-hour shifts and all time is compensable.  The Court held that Wage Order 4 does not permit the exclusion of sleep time from compensable hours worked in 24-hour shifts.  The Court did not rule on what may or may not be required under other wage orders.

Questions

If you have any questions concerning this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.

Meredith P. Garey | 916.321.4500