How many days in a row can an employee be required to work?
Labor Code sections 551 and 552 provide that every employee “is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven” and that “no employer of labor shall cause his employees to work more than six days in seven.” Labor Code section 556 provides that “Sections 551 and 552 shall not apply… when the total hours of employment do not exceed 30 hours in any week or six hours in any one day thereof.” In Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., (May 8, 2017) —Cal.4th—, the California Supreme Court considered the following questions about these statutes:
1. Is the day of rest required by sections 551 and 552 calculated by the workweek, or does it apply on a rolling basis to any seven-consecutive-day period?
2. Does the section 556 exemption for workers employed six hours or less per day apply so long as an employee works six hours or less on at least one day of the applicable week, or does it apply only when an employee works no more than six hours on each and every day of the week?
3. What does it mean for an employer to ―cause‖ an employee to go without a day of rest (§ 552): force, coerce, pressure, schedule, encourage, reward, permit, or something else?
It answered these questions as follows:
1. A day of rest is guaranteed for each workweek. Periods of more than six consecutive days of work that stretch across more than one workweek are not per se prohibited.
2. The exemption for employees working shifts of six hours or less applies only to those who never exceed six hours of work on any day of the workweek. If on any one day an employee works more than six hours, a day of rest must be provided during that workweek, subject to whatever other exceptions might apply.
3. An employer causes its employee to go without a day of rest when it induces the employee to forgo rest to which he or she is entitled. An employer is not, however, forbidden from permitting or allowing an employee, fully apprised of the entitlement to rest, independently to choose not to take a day of rest.
You can read the full opinion here. I think the court reaches gets the right answer, but I doubt this is the last we will hear about the informed consent requirement the court proposes in response to the third question.
And to answer the question posed by the title, an employee can be required to work no more than six days per workweek. Accordingly, an employee could conceivably be given a day’s rest on the first day of one workweek, work the next six days, work the first six days of the next workweek, and then be given a day’s rest on the last day of the second workweek. Thus, an employee can be required to work no more than 12 days in a row in California.