The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) recently issued updated guidance regarding rest breaks that reverses its previous position, which permitted employers to require that employees stay on work premises during their rest periods. In this new guidance, the DLSE states that employers “cannot impose any restraints not inherent in the rest period requirement itself,” including forbidding employees to leave the premises. This guidance follows the California Supreme Court’s determination that rest breaks, like meal breaks, must be “duty free.” In Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (2016) 5 Cal.5th 257, the California Supreme Court determined that a company policy regarding security guards to keep their radios or pagers on during their rest breaks, and to respond if needed, violated the California Labor Code and Wage Orders. The DLSE has expanded this ruling to require that employers permit employees to leave the work premises during their rest break, while noting that “[a]s a practical matter … the employee can only travel five minutes from a work post before heading back to return in time.”
California employers should review their employment policies to ensure compliance with this updated guidance. Weintraub’s Labor & Employment attorneys have extensive experience counseling and auditing employee handbooks. Please contact any member of our team for assistance in updating your policies.