By Michele Haydel Gehrke and Colleen M. Regan

Cal Pecs Blog is a BLAWG 100 Fan Favorite!!!!

In November, we announced that our Cal Pecs blog was selected as one of the ABA Journal’s 2014 “BLAWG 100.”  Today, we are thrilled to further proclaim that we earned the most votes from YOU, our devoted readers, in the ABA Journal BLAWG 100’s Labor & Employment category, making us the top Employment Law Blog vote-getter.  THANK YOU!  Your support of our beloved enterprise has us over-the-moon with gratitude and delight.  We promise to continue to earn your loyalty and readership as we work to develop content that keeps you abreast of California’s peculiar—and ever-changing—employment laws.

Click here to see vote totals for all 100 blogs featured in the ABA Journal’s December 2014 cover story, and click here to see a list of the winners of each category.  This victory will also be announced in the February issue of the ABA Journal.

Court of Appeal Permits “On-Call” Rest Breaks for Workers

Worth noting is a favorable, if unpublished, decision from the California Court of Appeal that was filed on December 31, 2014.  In Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., the appellate panel overturned a troubling decision by the LA County Superior Court.  The trial court had granted summary judgment to a class of security guard plaintiffs and awarded them almost $135 million in damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.  The trial court’s award was based on a finding that carrying a pager and being “on call” during paid rest breaks violated the Labor Code and required one-hour wage penalties for each and every rest break, whether or not the guard’s rest was interrupted. 

Applying some welcome common sense, the Court of Appeal reversed, and held that being “on call” subject to interruption did not constitute “work.”  Although this decision is not citable, we are glad to know that at least one court recognizes the difference between being required to work (i.e., being under the control of the employer) and being relieved of all duties (such as the duty to remain on call). 

California Supreme Court Hangs Up On Employers And Denies Petition for Review In Controversial Cell Phone Expense Reimbursement Case

You may recall that in Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services, Inc., the Court of Appeal held that, under California Labor Code § 2802, employees who must use personal cell phones for work are entitled to reimbursement for “some reasonable percentage” of the personal cell phone bill.  This appears to be the rule irrespective of whether the employee has incurred additional charges for the work use, whether a third party has paid the bill, or whether the employee has changed plans to accommodate work-related cell phone usage.  

On November 25, 2014, the California Supreme Court denied a petition for review filed by Schwan’s requesting that the high court review this controversial appellate decision, and also denied its request to depublish the Court of Appeal decision.  The petition had wide support among the employer community, which has questioned the broad holding in Cochran and what it means for employers. 

Now that we know the Cochran decision will not be overturned, it remains to be seen whether other California courts will follow Cochran’s lead.  In the interim, employers are left to wonder what the Cochran ruling means for them, and how they  may need to implement or update their Bring Your Own Device (“BYOD”) and expense reimbursement policies to avoid potential claims (particularly potential-expensive class actions). 

We suggest that employers consult with counsel to evaluate their technology and expense reimbursement policies and practices to ensure compliance with this evolving area of law.  Please reach out to your favorite Seyfarth attorney for more guidance.