What the Brinker Decision Means to California Employers
April 2012 (No. 16)
Employment, Benefits & Labor Alert
This morning the California Supreme Court ruled that California employers do not have to ensure that employees perform no work during statutory meal breaks. The Court referenced a “wave” of wage and hour class action litigation that was engendered by the imposition in 2000 of monetary penalties for employers who violate California’s meal and rest break laws. The Court held that an employer’s duty to provide meal breaks to its employees is satisfied “if it relieves its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does not impede or discourage them from doing so.” Importantly, this means that employers do not have to “police” meal breaks and ensure that the employees perform no work during the break. Nevertheless, it is critical that California employers have clear policies that provide meal breaks to employees.
An employer cannot, however, undermine its own meal break policy by pressuring employees to perform their duties in a way that omits breaks. For example, an employer must refrain from practices such as scheduling workers in a way that makes taking meal breaks extremely difficult or informally ridiculing or reprimanding employees for taking meal breaks. Note also that where an employee voluntarily chooses to perform work during a meal break, the employer still may be liable for straight pay when it knew or reasonably should have known that the employee was working through the authorized meal break.
If you would like further information about the Brinker decision and how it may impact your business, please contact a member of Blank Rome LLP’s Employment, Benefits, and Labor Practice Group.
Notice: The purpose of this alert is to review the latest developments which are of interest to clients of Blank Rome LLP. The information contained herein is abridged from legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion, and is not a substitute for the advice of counsel.