A Federal Appellate Court in California recently asked certified questions to the California Supreme Court in order to clarify California laws governing the number of days an employee may work. The California Labor Code states that “[e]very person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven,” and prohibits an employer from causing an employee to work “more than six days in seven.” Employers are exempt from providing a day of rest “when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof.”

A former Nordstrom employee brought a claim against the retailer under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), because he and other employees had worked more than six consecutive days on several different occasions. The trial court held that the Labor Code prohibits an employee working on any seven consecutive days, but that Nordstrom was exempt because each Plaintiff worked less than six hours on at least one day in those seven consecutive days. The trial court also held that the employer did not “cause” the employees to work, because the Plaintiffs had voluntarily accepted the additional shifts when offered. The trial court dismissed the case, and the Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court found the language of the Labor Code ambiguous, and certified three questions to the California Supreme Court:

1) Is the required day of rest calculated by the workweek, or is it calculated on a rolling basis for any consecutive seven-day period?

2) Does the exemption apply when an employee works less than six hours in any one day of the applicable week, or does it apply only when an employee works less than six hours in each day of the week?

3) What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to work more than six days in seven?

For the California Supreme Court’s answers, and how they affect your business, contact the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat at (760) 779-1313.

[Reference: Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc. (2015) U.S. Ct.App. 9th Cir., Case No. 12-57130 and 12- 57144]