The California Supreme Court will soon render a decision on three questions of critical importance to thousands of California employees. All of these questions relate to how the state’s “day of rest” law should be interpreted and applied.
Why has the court decided to rule on these questions? It all started in 2009, when a former Nordstrom’s employee filed a lawsuit against the giant department store. The employee, Christopher Mendoza, had previously worked as a barista and a sales representative for Nordstrom’s.
Mendoza claimed that Nordstrom’s had forced him to work more than six days in seven, contrary to California law. Megan Gordon, a fitting room attendant for Nordstrom’s, later joined the suit.
The federal judge who heard the case ruled against the employees, finding that Nordstrom’s did not violate the law, either because the seven-day period was a “rolling” period or because both employees voluntarily chose to work extra days, putting them over the limit.
The employees appealed, but the federal appellate court panel could not find any controlling California law on the issue, and it believed that the language of the law was ambiguous. In a circumstance such as this, when a federal court feels that a state law issue controls the outcome of a case, it has the ability to ask the state’s highest court for guidance. That is exactly what the federal appellate court did.
The California Supreme Court has agreed to provide guidance on three questions:
- Whether the seven-day period in the statute is calculated based on a workweek or on a rolling basis;
- Whether an exception for employees who work less than “six hours in any one day” requires an employee to work less than six hours only one day or the entire week; and
- What the provision of the law that prohibits an employer from “caus[ing]” an employee to work more than six days actually means. Must the employer force or coerce the employee to work or does “cause” include things like scheduling, encouraging, or allowing an employee to work more than the legal limit?
The outcome of this case will affect many more employees than Mendoza and Gordon. Employers all over the state are waiting for the outcome to decide how they need to treat their employees to ensure compliance with the law. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with a professional wage and hour lawyer in California.
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