In a post-Brinker world, litigants have wanted to understand the contours of the meal and rest period laws and how these laws might apply in a myriad of factual situations. While the Court has provided some clarification, it has also denied review in several cases that would have helped clarify this changing area of law.
The most recent case that spoke to these issues was Falkinbury v. Boyd & Associates. (G041702, 5/10/13, rev. denied) In Falkinbury, the Court of Appeal stated, “As we shall explain, Brinker teaches that we must focus on the policy itself and address the issue whether the legality of the policy can be resolved on a classwide basis.” One takeaway from this case may be that the meal and rest period policy itself is the most important factor in determining liabilty. It does not appear that the California Supreme Court is likely to wade into these waters for some time, but there have been a couple pro-employee decisions that have built on the foundation of Brinker. Practice cases are very hard to certify, but a bad policy is a smoking gun that will make certification almost a foregone conclusion.
Another case that was denied review was Gonzalez v. Downtown LA Motors, LP. In that case, the court prohibited employers from averaging employee time. An employer must pay an employee for each and every hour worked. The Court stated that “we conclude that class members were entitled to separate hourly compensation for time spent waiting for repair work or performing other non-repair tasks directed by the employer during their work shifts, as well as penalties under Labor Code section 203, subdivision (a).”
This bodes very well for plaintiffs who work in both piece rate and commission jobs. Employers need to be sure that a minimum wage is paid in addition to any additional incentive compensation. Another issue that is likely to be decided in the near future is whether or not commission or piece rate plans can compensate an individual for their rest breaks. Our firm has currently certified a claim where a piece rate system was used and no additional compensation was provided for rest breaks.