In the recent election, Californians voted to add an employer-friendly provision to the Labor Code that allows emergency ambulance workers to be on-call during breaks. California is one of 24 states that allow voters to initiate laws through the petition process.
This initiative followed a December 2016 California Supreme Court decision, Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc, which determined that security guards cannot be required to be “on call” during their rest periods. The decision held that employers must relieve employees of all employment-related duties during their rest periods.
The new law, known as the Emergency Ambulance Employee Safety and Preparedness Act, creates a carve-out for emergency ambulance employees when it comes to California’s rest period obligations. It provides that emergency ambulance employees “shall remain reachable by a portable communications device throughout the entirety of each work shift” and if the employee is interrupted during his or her rest break, that rest break does not count towards the breaks the worker is required to receive.
This new statute also provides that it is declaratory of existing California law, which means it will be implemented retroactively. As of now, it is applicable to emergency ambulance employees only, and it is not yet clear whether the declaratory statute will impact analogous employers.