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Appellate Practice

May 12, 2017

What's in a Week? SCoCA Decides Day-of-Rest Question

What's in a week? The Cal. Supreme Court clarifies what's demanded of employers by weekly day-of-rest statutes, as Wendy McGuire Coats (Fisher Phillips) explains; Gonzalo Martinez (Squire Patton Boggs) outlines a new CASC grant that will clarify latitude the state has when altering public employee pensions


This week's show examines two California Supreme Court cases, one that just commenced and another ruled upon Monday. Both entail employment law, and the interpretation of various California statutes.

Wendy McGuire Coats (Fisher Phillips) first discusses Monday's ruling, in Mendoza v. Nordstrom, in which the high court answered three questions certified by the 9th Circuit pertaining to California's "day-of-rest" states, which forbids employers, with certain exceptions, to cause employees to work a full seven-day workweek without a day off. At issue was whether a rolling seven-day period was the measuring stick, which would mean at no time could an employee work more than six consecutive days; or, rather, whether a fixed, Monday-Sunday-type workweek was the standard, meaning an employee with an early day off one week and a later day off the next week might work more than seven consecutive days but, overall, still got two days off those two weeks. The high court went with the latter approach, finding it more in harmony with the state's overall statutory scheme.

Another question addressed was exactly what it means for an employer to "cause" an employee to work a seventh consecutive day: Is merely allowing an employee to work that day the same as causing them to do so (making that a violation the day-of-rest statute), or does an employer only "cause" an employee to work if some coercion is applied? The Cal. Supreme Court essentially split the difference between those proposed takes, finding that employers could allow employees to work a seventh consecutive day (say, if the employee wanted to pick up an extra shift to cover bills), but could not encourage or compel an employee to do so; and the unanimous court held employers must apprise employees as to their right to take the day of rest.

Next, Gonzalo Martinez (Squire Patton Boggs) will examine a case just granted review, another case involving some unhappy employees. The case, Cal Fire Local 2881 v. CalPERS, sees a firefighters' union suing after the state legislature changed a law that allowed them to purchase an amount of service time (over and above what they'd actually served) in order to boost their eventual pension plans. The union argued this change violated the California Constitution's Contracts Clause because it nullified their vested right to purchase those credits. The trial and appellate courts felt differently, and now the high court will weigh in.

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Brian Cardile

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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