Court Redefines Standard For Employers To Designate A "Workweek" For Overtime Purposes And Broadly Interprets "Hours Worked" For On-Call Employees

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In a recent decision having broad implications for employers, the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal in Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc. (April 14, 2011, __ Cal.App.4th __, Case No. A 127489), reversed summary judgment for the employer after finding that the employer's designation of the workweek denied employees their right to overtime compensation under the Labor Code. The Court also found that the employees were due additional overtime pay for time spent "on call" because the employer exercised a sufficient level of control such that the time should qualify as "hours worked."

In this case, the employer provided crew members for offshore oil spill recovery vessels that were prepared to respond to emergency oil spills 24 hours a day. Crew members on the employer's ships worked on 2-week rotational hitches, i.e., 14-day hitches, alternating with 14-day rest periods. Each 2-week schedule started on a Tuesday at noon and ended at noon on the Tuesday 14 days later. The employees were paid to work a 12-hour daily shift during this 2-week period, except on crew change days, when they worked only 6 hours. They were paid their regular hourly rate for the first 8 hours and time and a half for the additional 4 hours of each 12-hour shift.

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