In 2012, the California Supreme Court decided an important meal and rest break case, Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. The question of whether employers must ensure breaks are taken or must simply provide breaks has been a source of significant litigation in both federal and state courts.
The California Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Brinker's favor on the most critical part of the decision – holding that employers do not have to ensure employees take their meal breaks. Once the meal period is provided, the employer is not obligated to police the meal breaks to ensure no work is being done.
The unanimous ruling is largely a win for California employers, but is not without potential pitfalls. Employers with vague policies may expose themselves to increased liability, and the decision makes clear that meal and rest break issues are still subject to class action lawsuits.
Now, California law goes beyond the federal wage and hour laws found in the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring employers to provide meal breaks and rest periods for employees who have worked a certain amount of time. To read more, visit this page.
If an employee works more than five hours, he or she is entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. During this break, the employee is to be relieved of all duties and is free to leave the premises. If this law is violated, the employee is entitled to be paid for the missed break plus a premium of one hour of pay at the regular rate. Every day the employee misses a meal break counts as a separate violation of the law.
Rest Period Violations
Rest period violations can be difficult to prove, because employers are only required to make the break available – employees are not required by law to take them. Whether an employer adequately communicated that a break was freely available, and whether an employee knowingly and voluntarily waived a break time, can be difficult to establish in court.
The attorneys at Kingsley & Kingsley have significant experience in labor law and other civil litigation, including class actions based on employer violations of the law across the workforce. If you believe that you have been unfairly denied a meal break and rest period, contact Kingsley & Kingsley to have an attorney evaluate your claim.