CEA - California Employers Association

04/18/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/18/2024 01:10

How Long Does it Take Your Employees to Start Their Workday

How Long Does it Take Your Employees to Start Their Workday?

Posted by:Giuliana Gabriel, J.D., HR Compliance Directoron Thursday, April 18, 2024

In the 2024 case, Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors Inc., the employer had a long process before employees could start their workday. As you may have guessed, the issue in this lawsuit was that employees did not get paid for their time spent waiting before they could clock in at their worksite.

The Case of Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors Inc.

The California Flats Solar Project is a solar power facility located on privately owned land in Monterey and San Luis Obispo. First Solar Electric, Inc. owns the facility. George Huerta and other workers were hired to assist CSI Electrical Contractors, the company providing "procurement, installation, construction, and testing services" at the facility. A designated road provided access between a guard shack located at the entrance and the employee parking lots. A security gate was located on that road several miles from the guard shack; from the security gate, it would take Huerta approximately 10 to 15 minutes to reach the parking lots. Huerta underwent security checks at the security gate and was told by CSI management that this gate was the "first place" he had to be at the beginning of the workday. In the morning, vehicles formed a long line outside the security gate, where guards scanned each worker's badge and sometimes peered inside vehicles and truck beds. At the end of the day, workers again formed a long line inside the security gate, where the exit procedure took place. The exit procedure could take up to a minute or more per vehicle and cause delays of five to over 30 minutes. CSI told Huerta that security guards had the right to search vehicles during the entry and exit processes. Huerta was not paid for the time he spent waiting to pass through the security gate at the beginning or end of the workday.

Hours Worked

The California Supreme Court found the waiting time was compensable as hours worked because the employer required specific and supervised tasks during the security checkpoint process. While the case interpreted Wage Order No. 16 (construction, drilling, logging, and mining industries) the Court's decision will likely be applied to other industries.

CEA's Reminder: Ensure non-exempt employees are not engaging in pre- and post-shift tasks that are off the clock. For example, only require them to go through security, gear up machines, don and doff protective gear, disable alarm systems, etc., after they have clocked in so that you are capturing that time and properly compensating employees. Create policies that require advance supervisor approval to work outside of scheduled shift times.

Meal Break Requirements

Another issue addressed by the Court was whether the employer had to pay employees for meal periods when the employer required employees to remain on the premises. The Court found that meal periods are considered "hours worked" if the employer prohibits the employee from leaving the premises, even if that employee falls under a valid collective bargaining agreement. The Court clarified that employees cannot bargain away their rights to be paid for an on-duty meal period.

CEA's Reminder: If you require employees to remain on the premises for meal or rest breaks, or otherwise retain control over employees during breaks, you will owe premium pay, in addition to paying the employee for any time worked during the meal period. Train your supervisors/managers on meal and rest break rights. If the nature of your business allows for on-duty meal periods, that time must be paid.

CEA members may learn more in our Meal and Rest Break Requirements Fact Sheet and access our Sample On-Duty Meal Period Agreement on our HR Forms page.


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