ABM Industries has obtained the reversal of a $94 million judgment in a wage-and-hour class action that was awarded by a California trial court in 2012.
In 2012, about 15,000 security guards were awarded the $94 million in a class-action lawsuit against their employer, ABM Security Services, which had allegedly denied the workers rest breaks. The guards were required to remain on duty during rest breaks according to the 2012 ruling by Superior Court Judge John Wiley and therefore ABM violated California labor laws.
In last week’s ruling, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, rejected the plaintiffs’ theory that the company violated labor laws by requiring some employees to remain “on call” and carry radios during rest breaks. In reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeal agreed with ABM that “on-call” rest breaks are permissible under California law.
The trial court’s judgment rested on the premise that “California law requires employers to relieve their workers of all duty during rest breaks”—a premise the Court of Appeal rejected as “false.” Instead, the Court of Appeal agreed with ABM that “remaining on call does not itself constitute performing work.” Because California law requires “only that an employee not be required to work on a rest break,” the Court held that rest breaks are valid even where workers on breaks are not “relieved of all duties, such as the duty to remain on call.”
The Court of Appeal also noted that “ABM’s security guards . . . engaged in various non-work activities,” while on their rest breaks, “including smoking, reading, making personal telephone calls, attending to personal business and surfing the Internet.”
“As the Court’s decision confirms, we have always provided our workers with rest breaks conforming to both the letter and spirit of the law,” ABM executive vice president and general counsel Sarah Hlavinka McConnell said.
“The underlying argument in this case – that all security guards employed by ABM did not receive valid rest breaks simply because some may have been required to carry radios – has been absurd from the outset,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., an attorney representing ABM.