Compliance Matters TM

California Supreme Court Continues to Broadly Construe Compensable “Hours Worked” Under State Wage and Hour Laws

In Huerta v. CSI Electrical Contractors, the California Supreme Court answered three questions on the meaning of the phrase “hours worked” under state law. The case involved a remote worksite at a solar power facility. The court continued its practice of interpreting “hours worked” broadly, depending on the level of employer control over employee activities.

Waiting and Exit Procedures

First, the court concluded George Huerta's time spent at a Security Gate awaiting and undergoing employer-mandated exit procedures outside the worksite—including vehicle inspections and security badge checks—is compensable as “hours worked.” The court emphasized the employer exercises a high level of control over employees’ activities during these mandatory security checks.

The Huerta case specifically addressed Wage Order No. 16, which governs our state’s construction, drilling, logging, and mining industries. However, the court’s interpretation of “hours worked” presumably would apply to all California wage orders.

Travel Time on Employer-Adjacent Property

Second, the court ruled an employee’s time spent traveling between the Security Gate and employee parking lots—typically 10 to 15 minutes—may be compensable as “employer-mandated travel” under Wage Order No. 16.

The key question is whether the Security Gate is the “first location” where the employer requires the employee’s presence “for an employment-related reason other than the practical necessity of reaching the worksite.” As examples, the court listed employees being “required to pick up work supplies, receive work orders or other directives, or perform work” at a particular location “before traveling to a second jobsite.”

However, the court found this driving time does not qualify more generally as “hours worked.” Although employees are restricted on this drive by “ordinary workplace rules” (e.g., no honking horns, playing loud music, or doing anything else to disturb wildlife in the area), this does not create enough employer control to transform the driving time to “hours worked.” Instead, employees must prove the time qualifies as “employer-mandated travel” to be entitled to compensation.

Meal Periods Restricted to Employer’s Premises

Third, the court concluded time designated as an unpaid “meal period” under a qualifying collective bargaining agreement may be compensable as “hours worked,” if the employee is prohibited from leaving the premises or a designated area, and is prevented from “personal activities” in which the employee could otherwise engage, despite being at a remote worksite.

The court suggested examples of such personal activities may include returning to the employee’s personal vehicle or taking a walk, where the employee could “make personal phone calls, take a nap, or simply enjoy a moment of quiet.” An employee who is entitled to compensation under these circumstances may bring an action under Labor Code section 1194, which applies to employees receiving “less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee.”

Takeaways for Employers

Employers must review and potentially revise their compensation policies to ensure compliance with the California Supreme Court’s interpretation of compensable work hours and employer-mandated travel time. This includes accounting for time spent on, or even near, the employer’s premises for mandatory security procedures.

As always, if you have any questions about the matters discussed in this issue of Compliance Matters, please call your firm contact at (818) 508-3700 or visit us online at


Richard S. Rosenberg

Katherine A. Hren

John J. Manier
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