Ninth Circuit Clarifies “Day of Rest” Rule in Dismissing PAGA Claim

In Mendoza v. Nordstrom, Inc., 9th Cir. No. 12-57130 (8/03/2017), the Ninth Circuit affirmed a judgment against Nordstrom, Inc. for violation of California’s “day of rest” law. Plaintiff Christopher Mendoza had argued that Nordstrom violated Labor Code section 551, which grants employees a right to one “day’s rest” in seven and section 552, which provides that no employer “shall cause his employees to work more than six days in seven,” and thus was subject to penalties. Mendoza had claimed that he had worked more than six days three times during his employment, including times where he worked 11, 7, and 8 days. The district court had held that the seven-day period was “rolling” and based on any consecutive 7-day period, rather than based on a workweek, but that here this did not apply because Nordstrom employed Mendoza for six hours or less “on at least one day” of a week, triggering an exemption under section 556, and that there was no coercion (Mendoza willingly performed the work).

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the District Court was incorrect on two counts.
First, sections 551 and 552 should be based on a workweek basis, such that each 7-day workweek (usually Monday through Sunday or Sunday through Saturday) operated as its own 7-day period. Employees are only entitled to one day of rest in each workweek. Second, the Court held that the exemption under section 556 only applied if the employee did not work more than 6 hours in any day of a workweek,, not just one day of a workweek.

However, the district court’s errors did not change the ultimate result because Mendoza (and other plaintiffs) were not “aggrieved employees” under the Private Attorneys General Act, because in each instance in which they worked 7 or more days in a row, those days were split over two workweeks, and in each one of those workweeks there was at least one day of rest. Therefore, a dismissal of the PAGA claim was appropriate.