Court clarifies labor questions with ‘day of rest’

Court clarifies labor questions with ‘day of rest’

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FRESNO, California – It was the clarity that farm labor concerns have been seeking from lawmakers for months after the passage of Assembly Bill 1066. That legislation removed the exemption agriculture operations enjoyed that allowed for laborers to work seven or more days in a row without a day of rest. Datatech, which provides payroll software for agriculture, has been watching this issue closely. With this California Supreme Court clarification on the ag labor questions raised, employers must now not cause a worker to go without one day of rest in a single seven day work week. The exception to this is a weekly volunteer form from the employer that the employee can sign to waive this ‘day of rest in seven’ mandate.

The labor questions raised with this issue were:

1. California Labor Code section 551 provides that “[e]very person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.” 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. California Labor Code section 556 exempts employers from providing such 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.” Does that 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. California Labor Code section 552 provides that an employer may not “cause his employees to work more than six days in seven.” What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to work more than six days in seven: force, coerce, pressure, schedule, encourage, reward, permit, or something else?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals couldn’t resolve these questions in the case of Mendoza vs. Nordstrom Inc., so it was bumped to the California Supreme Court. As of May 8, 2017 the clarification has been published by the court and now employers in agriculture can follow these clear directives:

  • Employers must ensure employees at least one day of rest for each workweek, rather than one day in every seven on a rolling basis.
  • The exemption for employees working shifts of six hours or less applies only if every day involves six hours or less of work and less than 30 hours worked in the workweek.
  • An employer causes its employee to go without a day of rest when it induces the employee to forgo rest to which he or she is entitled.  The court went on to say, “an employer is not, however, forbidden from permitting or allowing an employee, fully apprised of the entitlement to rest, independently to choose not to take a day of rest.” The court elaborated further, saying “…an employer’s obligation is to apprise employees of their entitlement to a day of rest and thereafter to maintain absolute neutrality as to the exercise of that right.  “An employer may not encourage its employees to forego rest or conceal the entitlement to rest, but is not liable simply because an employee chooses to work on a seventh day.”

Datatech President Isaac Davidian had this to say about the court’s ruling, “Our payroll software customers want to uphold the labor laws. But many times the law is unclear and there are questions about the proper lawful thing to do, as was the case with this ‘one day of rest in seven’ that was mandated by the passage of AB 1066 in California. The good thing is now with the California State Supreme court rulings on the labor code issues, we have clarification.”

As to the weekly volunteer form, Western Growers Association recently commented on this, “Ag employers are encouraged to continue to use a “voluntary work” form which has been updated by the Ventura County Ag Association and provides contemporaneous documentary evidence that the employer apprised employees of their right to take a day of rest, but that the employee voluntarily chose to work on a seventh day.”

Datatech provides software for a variety of ag accounting applications including payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, general cost accounting, inventory and sales tracking. Farm labor contractors especially like our Labor Contractor’s Office with HR management which is a complete payroll and insurance solution for ag accounting. Datatech software serves clients in over 21 states.