On-call Security Guards Entitled to Wages For Sleep Hours

In a class action brought by security guards working at construction sites, the California Supreme Court held, in a unanimous decision issued January 8, 2015, that these security guards were entitled to compensation for all hours where they were at the construction site and "on-call," even hours when they were sleeping, due to the level of control the employer had over them while they were on-call. The key facts seemed to be that the on-call guards were required to reside in an on-site trailer provided by the employer, CPS Securty Solutions, Inc. The trailers ranged from 150 to 200 square feet and had residential amenities including a bed, bathroom, kitchen, heating, and air conditioning. Only the assigned guard and maintenance staff had keys to these onsite trailers. Guards could keep personal items in the trailers and generally use on-call time as they chose. However, children, pets, and alcohol were not allowed, and adult visitors were permitted only with the approval of the CPS client. Guards could request to be relieved from the site but, by agreement, could not leave until a relief guard arrived.

During weekdays, security guards patrolled the site for eight hours and were "on-call" for eight hours. On weekends, they patrolled for sixteen hours and were on-call for eight hours. Guards were not compensated for any on-time hours, except hours spent investigating an alarm or when, having requested to be relieved, they had to wait for the relief guard. During on-call hours, the guards engaged in personal activities including sleeping, showering, eating, reading, watching television, and browsing the Internet. However, these personal activities were determined not to have lessened the extent of CPS' control over its employees.

In holding that CPS owed wages for all on-call hours, even those spent sleeping, the Court distinquished two Court of Appeal decisions, Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc. (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 16 (holding that ambulance drivers could orally agree to have their on-call sleep hours excluded from compensable time) and disapproved Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 361 (extending Monzon to ship crewmembers and holding the exclusion of sleep time from compensable hours worked by 24-hour employees is implied by similar federal regulations). The Supreme Court noted the issue is not whether there are similarities between federal and state definitions of hours worked but whether state law and the applicable wage order contained an express exemption similar to that found in federal law. 

Wage Order 4 of the Industrial Welfare Commission is the wage order applicable to security guards and, unlike Wage Orders 5 (employees responsible for children) and Wage Order 9 (at issue in Monzon) it does not contain an exemption analogous to the federal regulation excluding sleep hours. Thus, since the security guards received no compensation for on-call time spent at the site, including sleep time, their employer, CPS, was held to have violated minimum wage and overtime obligations imposed by Wage Order 4.

The actual decision can be accessed by Clicking Here.