California law clarifies 12-hour workday issue
A recently passed amendment to the California Labor Code protects the 12-hour workday favored by many healthcare workers and facilities.
Legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month affirms a longstanding rule drafted by the state’s Industrial Welfare Commission that allows healthcare workers to voluntarily waive their right to one of their two required meal periods on shifts longer than eight hours. The bill was introduced after unions and providers expressed concern over a court ruling finding California hospitals in violation of state law when they allowed workers to waive meal periods during shifts that went even a minute over 12 hours.
Twelve-hour shifts are common in both unionized and non-unionized healthcare environments. It’s not uncommon for nurses and other staff to start their shift a couple of minutes early or end it a few minutes late.
The California Court of Appeals ruled in February that the Welfare Commission rule, adopted more than 20 years ago, conflicts with a subsequent provision of the state’s Labor Code that requires two meal periods for shifts that last over 12 hours. The ruling came in a case brought by three healthcare workers against a Fountain Valley, Calif., hospital.
The court’s ruling was retroactive, which meant that without the Labor Code amendment, hospitals would have been at risk for millions of dollars in liability related to staff who were allowed to waive their meals over the past four years.