Some big news just hit the airwaves: The California Supreme Court just ruled, in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, S166350, that employers are under no obligation to ensure that workers take legally mandated lunch and rest breaks. To put it as the Court put it:
“we conclude an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.”
The unanimous opinion was authored by Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar. The Court explained that neither state statutes nor the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods. Instead, an employer must provide its employees with a uninterrupted 30-minute duty-free break during which the employee is at liberty to do whatever he or she pleases. Absent some sort of waiver, a meal break must be afforded after no more than five hours of work, and a second break provided after no more than 10 hours of work.
After I spend a good deal of time analyzing the case I’ll post more information.
Branigan Robertson is a California employment lawyer who exclusively represents employees in workplace disputes. He focuses his practice on sexual harassment, wage & hour, wrongful termination, and retaliation. Visit his website at BRobertsonLaw.com or call his office at 949.667.3025.
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