(From a member, Jessica Barajas, who is a labor lawyer)
Here’s my analysis of Prop 11.
I strongly recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 11.
I spoke with the Legislative Director of the California Employment Lawyers Association and sought additional information from the California Labor Federation’s webpage for this analysis.
Proposition 11 is funded by American Medical Response (AMR), one of California’s largest private ambulance companies. AMR spent over $1 million to get the necessary signatures to put this measure on the ballot and an additional $3.5 million to influence voters after the California Supreme Court issued a critical decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., 2016 D.J. 12608 (2016), relating to California’s rest period obligations. In that case, the court held that employers who maintain control during rest breaks must pay a premium wage for those rest breaks. An example of an maintaining control during a rest break is requiring employees to have and monitor pagers during breaks and immediately end their break if their services are needed.
AMR is heavily embroiled in various wage and hour lawsuits and is funding this measure as a way to avoid paying out millions of dollars in damages and penalties in the pending lawsuits and any future lawsuits regarding meal and rest break violations. Instead of either paying their employees the premium wage or trying to work with California’s Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to get an exemption they initiated this ballot measure. Certain industries have worked with the DIR to obtain exemptions from the wage and hour laws when necessary but AMR has not done this. The relevant unions are open to working out a deal with AMR regarding the wage and hour laws but AMR was too stubborn and refused to give an inch. AMR has refused to do this and instead dug in their heels in various legal battles over the last 7 – 8 years. They simply do not want to pay their employees what they are owed and would rather change state law to carve out a special exemption for themselves.
The claims in the voter guide that if the proposition fails people will be subjected to soaring insurance premiums and patient safety will be compromised are overblown. AMR can just pay the premium to their employees, as many other employers do when they require their employees to take “on duty” rest breaks, or they can work out a deal with the unions and the DIR as the refinery industry did when they had similar issues.
Passage of this will require first responders to stay “on call” during their rest breaks without appropriate compensation. They work in a high-pressure job and adequate rest breaks are necessary for their job performance. Additionally, passage of this measure chips away at California’s protections for hourly employees and we could see other industries and companies attempt to carve out further exemptions from the law, thus depriving even more workers of their rest periods.