Man isn’t a beast of burden. California’s “day of rest” law thus entitles “[e]very person…to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.”1 The law protects that entitlement by prohibiting an employer may from “causing” an employee to work more than six days in seven.2 But the law doesn’t say whether “seven consecutive days” is a “workweek” (a consecutive seven-day period that always starts on the same calendar day of the week) or a “rolling period” (any seven days in a row). That said, the “day of rest” law doesn’t apply at all in certain other situations or to certain employees.
Six Days You Shall Labor? Or Twelve?
The meaning of “seven consecutive days” can mean the difference between a normal full-time employee and a beast of burden. For example, suppose an employee works Sunday through Saturday, alternating Sundays and Saturdays as days off. If “seven consecutive days” means a rolling period, the employer violates the “day of rest” law, as the employee works Monday through Saturday and Sunday through Friday – 12 days in a row. If, however, “seven consecutive days” means a workweek, the employer doesn’t violate the “day of rest” law, as the employee never works more than six days from Sunday through Saturday.
The silver lining behind the “workweek” cloud is that California law prohibits employers from requiring certain classes of nonexempt employees to work more than 72 hours per workweek: (1) any employee in a professional, clerical, technical, mechanical, or similar occupation (except in emergencies)3; (2) any employee in certain on-site occupations in the construction, drilling, logging, and mining industries (except in emergencies)4; (3) any employee in the canning, freezing, and preserving industry5; or (4) any employee in an industry handling products after harvest (usually).6
Be Fruitful and Multiply Your Workdays: Exceptions to the “Day of Rest” Law
Whether “seven consecutive days” means a workweek or a rolling period, the “day of rest” law doesn’t apply at all in two situations. First, an employee doesn’t get a day of rest if an “emergency” or the “protection of life or property from loss or destruction” requires him to work seven or more consecutive days.7 Second, an employee can work seven or more consecutive days if: (1) the nature of his employment “reasonably requires” it; and (2) he gets the “equivalent” of one day’s rest in seven.8 Thus, an employee can work as many as 27 days in a row, as long as he gets the next four days off.9
The “day of rest law” doesn’t also apply to at least three kinds of employees. First, an employee whose total hours of employment don’t exceed “30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof” doesn’t get a day of rest.10 But the phrase “any one day” of the week could mean “only one day that week” or “every day that week.” Second, an employee who works for a “common carrier engaged in or connected with the movement of trains” doesn’t get a day of rest.11 Finally, an employee who works in an “agricultural occupation” (including everyone from a farmhand to a commercial fisherman) doesn’t get a day of rest.12