EMT rest break issue certified to California Supreme Court

When EMTs work 24-hour shifts, does a California employer have to allow a no-duty rest period – including no duty to respond to an emergency call? That's the main issue – but not the only issue – facing the 9th Circuit in Stewart v. San Luis Ambulance (9th Cir 12/29/2017) [PDF].

Well, that question was a stumper for the 9th Circuit, because of California's somewhat confusing and somewhat contradictory rules governing rest periods, and special rules for ambulance attendants. As the 9th Circuit pointed out, there needs to be an interpretation of California Wage Order 9. And that has to take place in light of the apparent tension between Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc., 273 Cal. Rptr. 615 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990), and Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., 385 P.3d 823 (Cal. 2016), as modified on denial of rehearing March 15, 2017.

So the 9th Circuit is asking the California Supreme Court to address the issues, and then report back so the 9th Circuit can authoritatively decide the case rather than guess what the California court would decide.

Here are the certified issues:

1. Under the California Labor Code and applicable regulations, is an employer of ambulance attendants working twenty-four hour shifts required to relieve attendants of all duties during rest breaks, including the duty to be available to respond to an emergency call if one arises during a rest period?

2. Under the California Labor Code and applicable regulations, may an employer of ambulance attendants working twenty-four hour shifts require attendants to be available to respond to emergency calls during their meal periods without a written agreement that contains an on-duty meal period revocation clause? If such a clause is required, will a general at-will employment clause satisfy this requirement?

3. Do violations of meal period regulations, which require payment of a "premium wage" for each improper meal period, give rise to claims under sections 203 and 225 of the California Labor Code where the employer does not include the premium wage in the employee’s pay or pay statements during the course of the violations?