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California Supreme Court Weighs In On “Hours Worked” For Construction Workers

"Hours Worked" For Construction WorkersIn a highly anticipated decision, the California Supreme Court recently provided much-needed guidance on what activities constitute compensable “hours worked” for employees in the construction industry. The case, Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors, addresses several common scenarios faced by construction workers and offers a roadmap for employers and employees alike.

Vehicular security checks are compensable time

A key holding in Huerta was that time spent by employees waiting to undergo vehicular security checks at the employer’s premises is considered compensable “hours worked” under Wage Order No. 16, which governs wages and hours in the construction industry.

The Court drew parallels to its previous decision in Frlekin v. Apple Inc., where it found that time spent waiting for bag checks was also compensable. Like in Frlekin, Huerta was confined to the employer’s premises until he completed a mandatory exit procedure. This ruling reinforces the principle that employees should be paid for time spent under the employer’s control, even if not directly engaged in productive work.

On-site travel time: A mixed bag

The Court’s decision on the compensability of on-site travel time was more nuanced. While time spent driving on the employer’s premises from the security gate to the employee parking lots, even when subject to certain employer rules like speed limits and safety policies, was deemed not compensable as “hours worked,” the Court left open the possibility that such travel time could potentially be compensable as “employer-mandated travel” under the unique provisions of Wage Order No. 16.

This aspect of the ruling will likely require further proceedings to determine the specific circumstances under which on-site travel time may be compensable. Employers and employees in the construction industry should closely monitor any developments in this area.

Unpaid meal periods: A conditional green light

The Court also addressed the issue of unpaid meal periods for construction workers who are exempt from state meal period requirements due to a qualifying collective bargaining agreement. In a win for employers, the Court held that unpaid 30-minute meal periods where employees are prohibited from leaving the premises are not compensable as “hours worked” under Wage Order No. 16, as long as the employees are relieved of all duties and free to spend the time as they choose.

However, the Court reinforced that such meal periods cannot pay less than minimum wage for that time, ensuring that employees are still adequately compensated for their time on the job.

Clarity and nuance in equal measure

The Huerta decision provides much-needed clarity on the scope of compensable “hours worked” for construction workers in California. While some aspects of the ruling are employee-friendly, such as the compensability of time spent waiting for vehicular security checks, others limit the scope of compensable time, such as the treatment of on-site travel time and unpaid meal periods under certain conditions.

As with many legal decisions, the devil is in the details, and both employers and employees in the construction industry would be well-advised to carefully review the Court’s reasoning and seek guidance from legal professionals to ensure compliance with the law.

In the ever-evolving landscape of wage and hour regulations, the Huerta decision serves as a reminder that the definition of “hours worked” is not always straightforward, and that a nuanced understanding of the applicable wage orders and collective bargaining agreements is essential for all parties involved.

What should you do?

If you believe you are not being properly compensated for all your work time, including security checks, travel on company property, or restricted meal breaks, contact Matern Law Group for a free consultation.  Our experienced team of employment lawyers can help you understand your rights and determine if you have a case. Know your rights and get the compensation you deserve.



Julieta Hernandez

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