Tis the season for new California laws, and yesterday Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing an extremely limited exception for required rest breaks in the petroleum industry. Nearly all nonexempt employees in California are entitled to duty-free, ten-minute rest breaks, but Assembly Bill 2605 allows certain union employees working in safety sensitive positions in petroleum facilities covered by Wage Order 1 to remain on-call during their rest breaks. While most bills take effect on January 1, 2019, this is an urgency measure, meaning it takes effect immediately.
The new law is in response to the recent California Supreme Court case of Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., which held that nonexempt employees must be relieved of all duties during rest periods. Under the Augustus ruling, employees who are on rest breaks may not be required to be on-call or carry radios, pagers or other instant communication devices.
AB 2605’s extremely limited rest break exception applies only to employees covered by certain types of collective bargaining agreements in safety sensitive positions at petroleum facilities. The employee’s job duties must include responding to emergencies such as leaks or possible fires or explosions. If employees are actually called back to work during their break they must be given another rest break reasonably promptly after the circumstances that led to the interruption have passed. If circumstances don’t allow another rest break, the employee must be paid one hour at their regular rate of pay as a rest break penalty.
Petroleum facilities covered under this new law include petroleum refineries, marine and onshore terminals handling crude oil and petroleum products, bulk marketing terminals, asphalt plants, gas plants, catalyst plants, carbon plants and any other facility involved in the processing, refining, transport or storage of crude oil or petroleum products.
Because this new law only covers facilities that operate under IWC Wage Order 1 (Manufacturing), the exception does not apply to gas stations or other similar facilities that may store or handle gasoline or petroleum products because they are not Wage Order 1 businesses.
This new law will remain in effect only until January 1, 2021.