California Supreme Court Rules Security Guards are Entitled to Compensation for On-Call Hours, Including Sleep Time

On January 8, 2015, in Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc., 2015 Cal. LEXIS 3, the California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal's conclusion that security guards' on-call time constitutes hours worked and was therefore compensable time and subject to minimum wage and overtime protections. At night and on the weekends, CPS required security guards to stay at trailers on job sites to be on-call and able to respond to disturbances if the need arose. The trailers had amenities such as a bed, bathroom, kitchen, and heating and air conditioning. Although CPS prohibited children, pets, and alcohol in the trailers, it permitted security guards to engage in personal activities, such as sleeping, showering, eating, reading, watching television, and browsing the internet. The security guards could not leave the worksite without permission, even in the case of an emergency. Even if someone was available to relieve a guard, the guard had to be accessible by pager, radio or phone and stay close enough to the worksite to be able to return to the site within 30 minutes. CVS did not pay the security guards for any on-call time unless an alarm or other circumstance occurred requiring an investigation.

Citing to its previous decisions, including Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., 22 Cal. 4th 575, 581 (2000), the Mendiola court confirmed that "hours worked" includes both "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." Finding that the level of control exercised by CPS over the security guards when they were on-call was sufficient to make the on-call time, including sleep time, constitute "hours worked," the Court refused to incorporate any federal regulations into the wage order. Citing again to Morillion, the Court iterated that California is free to offer "greater protection" than the federal regulations and that absent "convincing evidence" of an intent by the IWC to adopt the federal standards, the court declined to "import any federal standards, which expressly eliminates substantial protections to employees, by implication."