Mendoza v. Nordstrom: clarifying the laws regarding a day of rest.

Mendoza v. Nordstrom (Supreme Court of California)

In Mendoza v. Nordstrom, the Plaintiff filed suit against their employer, Defendant Nordstrom, for failure to grant the statutorily guaranteed day of rest after 7 days of work.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requested that the California Supreme Court answer three questions to help them in the decision of the case on appeal: 

1.  Is the day of rest calculated by the workweek, or is it granted on a rolling basis to any seven-day consecutive period?

2.  Does the exemption for day of rest apply to an employee who works six hours or less on any one day, or must the employee work six hours or less on each and every day of the week?

3.  What does it mean for an employer to “cause” an employee to go without a day of rest- is it by force, by coercion, pressure, encouraged with reward, etc.?

Both the California State Legislature and the IWC revised their interpretations of the work week throughout the past few decades to ensure that the regulation regarding the days of work was on a weekly, non-rolling basis.  Therefore, a workweek begins on the same calendar day each week, and proceeds for seven consecutive days at a fix and at a regularly recurring period of seven consecutive 24-hour days.  The day of rest guarantee is not absolute, in allowing for emergencies and excluding certain categories of work that demand alternate work schedules.  The Legislature also concluded that employees can have the rest days spaced out differently within a calendar month, if they receive the number of calendar days worked divided by seven. 

In terms of the daily limit of hours in the calculation of exemption from day of rest guarantees, the Court concluded that the Plaintiffs Mendoza and Gordon were correct, in that the exemption only applies to an employee who works six hours or less on each and every day of the workweek.  Had the exemption been the way Nordstrom interpreted it, to be at least one day of labor that was six hours or less, the weekly limit of 40 hours of work would be exceeded, if on seven days an employee worked over 6 hours, they would have worked 42 hours within a week and be owed overtime payment.

Lastly, the word “cause” was settled to mean that an employer should not implicitly or explicitly make it clear to their employees that working without a day of rest will result in benefits, rewards, promotions, etc., thereby motivating employees to work every day of the week.  An employer is obligated to explain to employees the day of rest entitlement, but beyond that is to remain impartial as to whether that day of rest is taken.  If an employee decides by their own will to work a seventh consecutive day, the employer is not liable. Based on the reasons aforementioned, the Court found in favor of the Defendant, Nordstrom. 

See: California Labor Code Sections 551 and 552

551. Every person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.

552. No employer of labor shall cause his employees to work more than six days in seven.

Application: Employers cannot imply that working a seventh consecutive day will benefit the employee, but an employee can individually choose to forgo the day of rest, sans intimidation or coercion by the employer.  In order to be exempt from the day of rest, an employee cannot work more than six hours on each and every day in a consecutive seven day workweek.