California Supreme Court: Guards must be paid for on-call 'sleep-time'

Jan. 13, 2015
Justices issue unanimous ruling in class action lawsuit

The California Supreme Court ruled last week that security guards who spent on-call hours at work sites under their employer’s control must be compensated for their time.

At issue in the class action lawsuit, Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, was whether or not security guards assigned to work at construction sites - 16-hour shifts on weekdays and 24-hour shifts on weekends - were entitled to be paid for so-called "sleep time" in which they are required to reside in trailers provided by their employer on the jobsite that enabled them to attend to any alarms as well as help prevent vandalism and theft. As a condition of their employment, guards were required to sign an on-call agreement which designates eight hours a day – generally 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. – as the time in which they were required to stay in trailers on the jobsite. 

Attorneys for CPS argued that because guards could engage in personal activities, such as sleeping, reading or watching television during these hours unless they were otherwise interrupted by responsibilities of the job, that they were not under the control of their employer and thus not entitled to compensation. That argument, however, did not pass muster with the court and their interpretation of the state’s wage laws.

"The fact that guards could engage in limited personal activities does not lessen the extent of CPS’s control. It is the extent of employer control here that renders on-call time compensable hours worked under Wage Order 4," Justice Carol Corrigan wrote in the unanimous opinion issued by the court.      

Although guards could ask to leave the jobsite and would subsequently be paid from that moment on if their request was denied, the court ruled that CPS still exerted significant control over the guards.  

"Guards could not easily trade on-call responsibilities. They could only request relief from a dispatcher and wait to see if a reliever was available. If no relief could be secured, as happened on occasion, guards could not leave the worksite. CPS exerted control in a variety of other ways. Even if relieved, guards had to report where they were going, were subject to recall, and could be no more than 30 minutes away from the site," wrote Corrigan.

"The Supreme Court's decision in Mendiola vs CPS is a victory for California workers. It is no surprise that the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that California worker protections prevail over lesser protective federal law. It is a well-reasoned decision based on the Court's precedents beginning with Morillion. We look forward to the damages phase of this case, which will be based largely on CPS' records," Cathe L. Caraway-Howard, one of the attorneys who represented the guards in the case, said in a statement to SIW.

The law firm that represented CPS in the case declined to comment on the ruling. 

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.