For the last fifteen years, issues of hours worked for “resident employees” in California have been guided by the California Appellate Court’s findings in Brewer v. Patel. In that case, involving a motel clerk required to live on the premises, “the appellate court affirmed…that [Brewer] was entitled to be paid only for the time he actually worked, not for all the time he spent at the motel.” The trial court’s findings were supported by a “special rule” in the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) Manual (§ 11050, subdivision (2)(K)) that allowed managers and clerks who were required to live on the work premises to count only the “time spent carrying out assigned duties…as hours worked.”
On March 18, 2008, in Isner v. Falkenberg/Gilliam & Assoc., Inc., the California Appellate Court once again ruled consistent with the findings in Brewer. Like in Brewer, plaintiffs in Isner were “employed…in capacities that required [them] to live on the premises” and were seeking compensation for all on-call hours during which they were required to be on the premises. The Isners, a married couple, sought to distinguish their case from Brewer by asserting, primarily, that because they were required to remain “within hearing distance of the telephone and alarm” that sounded only in the building office and the apartment provided them by Falkenberg, they were “more like…security guard[s]…who ha[ve] to remain at a duty station” than they were the motel clerk in Brewer, “who could at least enjoy the amenities of the motel.” The Court, however, found the Isners’ and Brewer’s circumstances analogous, stating “the only reasonable inference…is that [Brewer],” much like the Isners, “had to be within sight and sound of the office” during the hours he was “required to keep the motel office open.” As such, and finding no triable issues of fact, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling of summary judgment in favor of defendant.
While establishing no new law, by relying on Brewer and Section 11050, subdivision (2)(K) of the DLSE Manual (which itself now cites back to Brewer in support of its interpretation), the California Appellate Court in Isner has solidified the position of California law on what constitutes compensated hours worked by resident employees: they can only expect to be paid for time spent actually performing job duties, and not merely for time spent on-call at home.