Approximately 15,000 security guards were awarded nearly $90 million in a class-action lawsuit against their employer, ABM Security Services, which had allegedly denied the workers proper rest breaks, according to an article from NBC: Southern California.
Security guards were required to remain on duty during break periods with their cell phones or pagers turned on, according to court papers about the case. Superior Court Judge John Wiley ruled Friday that the policy did not give the guards legitimate rest breaks and therefore violated California labor laws, stating that “if you are on call, you are not on break.”
Instead, Wiley said, workers must be relieved of all duties in order for rest breaks to be considered legally valid, according to the article.
California labor laws entitle most workers to a 10-minute break every four hours, the article noted, adding that these breaks should free workers of all duties and should not require them to keep their radios, phones or pagers accessible.
But representatives from ABM said the company "strongly disagrees" with the ruling and plans to appeal the case, NBC reports.
"We will vigorously pursue our right to appeal because we firmly disagree with today's ruling, its interpretation of California rest period law and California class certification standards," said ABM General Counsel Sarah McConnell in a written statement. "We contend that we provide our workers with rest breaks conforming to both the letter and spirit of the law."
ABM attorneys said imposing a multi-million dollar judgment against the company because it "required security guards to carry radios is a request whose absurdity speaks for itself," according to a 28-page April 2012 filing of the case.
Still, Drew Pomerance, one of the guards’ lead attorneys, said ABM could have abided by labor laws by hiring a "rover" – a worker who could fill in for a security guard taking a rest break – or extending an exemption that would allow the company to mandate that guards be on call during their rest periods, NBC reports.
ABM had previously obtained such an exemption from the Department of Labor Standards Enforcements, but it had expired, the article states.