California Further Clarifies Rest Break Requirements


By: Emily Knoles

Pursuant to Wage Orders promulgated by California’s Industrial Welfare Commission, most non-exempt employees in California are entitled to a paid 10 minute rest break for every 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof. In December 2016 the California Supreme Court clarified in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal. 5th 257, 260, that during said rest breaks, “employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time.” As we anticipated when this decision first came out, there has been a steady uptick in litigation about this matter as the courts work to define the nature of relinquishing control in the context of a 10 minute rest break. 

Prior to Augustus, the California Labor Commissioner, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) directed that employers could require employees to stay on the premises during rest breaks. However, in the wake of Augustus, in November 2017, the DLSE published updated guidance on the provision of rest breaks to California non-exempt employees and made clear that employers “cannot impose any restraints not inherent in the rest period requirement itself,” including whether employees may leave the premises. 

As the New Year approaches, California employers should ensure they are meeting the requirements of California rest break law. California businesses should:

  1. Review and update policies to reflect that employees entitled to rest breaks may take them at the location of their choosing;

  2. Train managers and supervisors on requirements for rest breaks for California employees to ensure expectations are properly communicated; and

  3. Communicate to eligible employees their rights regarding rest breaks. 

If you have concerns that your business may have unintended liability for the provision of rest breaks or you have concerns about remaining compliant, please contact your Polsinelli attorney.