California law regulating what hourly workers must be paid for differs from the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). This is an example of how California law is more favorable than Federal Law which provides the minimum working protections possible for workers.
In California, non-exempt employees who work twenty four hours or more a day must be paid for time sleeping unless a series of circumstances are met.
1) The employer must allow the employee the ability to have uninterrupted sleep for more than five hours. If the employee is free to do what they want during these five hours and they choose not to sleep, the employer does not have to pay them provided the last two criteria are met;
2) the time excluded for uninterrupted sleep cannot be more than eight hours;
3) the employer must furnish adequate sleeping facilities. A room with a bed might constitute adequate sleep facilities, and a motel or hotel would. More interesting questions would be whether a weather proof tent would constitute adequate facilities, and it probably would if the job was somewhere away from normally constructed shelter, but probably not if it was a security officer working at a hospital.
Presuming there is a twenty four or more hour consecutive shift, and all of the above criteria are met, the next question is whether uninterrupted meal breaks are excluded from determining that there is a twenty four hour shift. For instance, if the employee took two half hour, uninterrupted meal breaks only twenty three hours would have been worked. Thus, the rule about being paid to sleep really involves twenty five hour consecutive shifts if the employer has correctly paid the meal breaks.
If the employee's schedule is less than twenty four hours, the employee is not entitled to be paid if they sleep. Questions would exist as to how many uninterrupted meal breaks the employee is entitled to, and how much they should be paid in overtime and double time pay.
What is stated above is the general law. Complications arise if the employee is required to stay on the premises when they sleep. Some positions are exempt from the employee being paid to sleep if an employee is required to live on premises, or stay in the employer's home. Other positions require written agreements for the employer to avoid paying the employee for all hours spent on premises.
There are too many scenarios, exemptions, and industries to write about so it is best to consult with an attorney who is highly skilled and experienced in wage and hour cases. These are not issues a general practitioner would know, and they are not even issues many labor lawyers know off the top of their head. These issues are based upon a variety of different wage orders, California Codes of Regulation, California Statutes and Federal Statutes, Federal cases, and opinion letters.
Lawyers familiar with these issues would need a proper law library to answer these questions. This type of information is not available all in one place, and requires the synthesis of information by somebody skilled in this area. If you have questions about whether you should be paid when you work a twenty four hour, or shorter shift, please feel free to contact me.
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