California Supreme Court Sheds Light on State's 'Day of Rest' Labor Law

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A recent decision by the California Supreme Court settled a question of state labor law that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals needed resolved in order to rule on a pending federal appeal that turns on the application of state law.

The case stems from the labor disputes of two Nordstrom employees that allege the company violated California's Labor Code sections 551, 552, and 556 which govern the guaranteed "day of rest" each week to full time employees. The employees asserted that they had been forced to work more than 7 consecutive days without being provided the "rest day."

A lower federal court interpreted the California code sections to exempt employees if they work less than six hours on any one day of the week, which knocked out the case in the lower court. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court requested the state Supreme Court clarify the state law.

California's "Day of Rest" Statute Finally Explained

The California Supreme Court explained that, in California, workers are guaranteed a day of rest by law, however, the guarantee only applies if a worker puts in more than 30 hours per week.

However, unlike the lower federal court's determination that one six hour or less shift would disqualify the employee from the statutory "day of rest," the state supreme court explained that if a worker works more than one six hour shift in a week, they are entitled to have one day off, even if the rest of their shifts are under six hours. The court explained that only if all shifts are under six hours, would an employee be exempt from the statute.

However, the California Supreme Court also ruled that the "day of rest" only needs to fall within a work week, which means that there is no prohibition against scheduling seven consecutive days, so long as an employee has one day off per work week. This means an employee can work 12 days in a row.

Additionally, the court explained that the right to the "day of rest" is held by the employee and can be waived. Employers are only required to make it available.

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