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Your Legal Corner - Client Alert Blog

California Supreme Court to Rule on Meal Periods and Rest Breaks

Written By: Melissa C. Marsh, Esq., California Attorney, October 2008 Add to Favorites
Pursuant to California Labor Code §512, employers are required to “provide” all non-exempt California employees with a 30-minute meal break and a 10-minute rest break every four hours worked, if the workday is 5 hours or more. A question has arose as to whether the employer must offer the required meal and rest breaks, or actually ensure their employees take the required meal and rest breaks.

In Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, the California Court of Appeals held that while employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking meal and rest breaks, employers need only provide employees with an opportunity to take their break, and are not required to ensure they are in-fact taken. Unfortunately the appellate court’s decision has been placed on hold, because the California Supreme Court has granted review of the case. Until the Supreme Court rules to overturn, or uphold, the decision in Brinker, the Appellate Court decision has no effect. All California employers should consequently continue not only to provide the required meal and rest breaks, but ensure their employees are in fact taking the required meal and rest breaks.

At present, if a California employer fails to provide either the required meal break, or rest break, California Labor Code §226.7(b) provides that the employer must pay the employee one hour’s pay at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each workday the employee was not provided a meal period or rest break in compliance with section 512 of the Labor Code, or any applicable Industrial Welfare Commission wage order.

Claims for unpaid wages are generally covered by a three-year statute of limitations (and permit restitution under a four-year statute of limitations), while claims for penalties are covered by a one-year statute of limitations. On April 16, 2007 in Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided that the payments to employees for missed meal and rest periods are wages, not penalties. Therefore, claims for missed meal and rest breaks under the Labor Code are governed by a three-year statute of limitations.

Tags: california rest breaks, lunch break, meal periods
Posted In: Employment Law News 

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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.