California Court Says Employer Does Not Have to Ensure Breaks Are Taken
While California employers continue to await the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker, one Court of Appeals has issued a published decision holding that an employer does not have to ensure its employees take their meal breaks so long as they are provided the opportunity to take them. The court also denied class certification to a putative class of employees alleging meal break violations. The decision is Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Meanwhile, the Brinker case has not yet been set for oral argument before the Supreme Court, which means that a decision is not expected until at least Spring 2011. That decision is expected to resolve the question of whether California law requires employers to “ensure” meal breaks are taken, or simply provide the opportunity to take them (with no liability if an employee chooses to skip the break or take a short break).
This case is really good news but we must remain cautious. Please make sure that employees are aware that they are permitted to take breaks. It should be in your personnel handbook and you should place a notice on your bulletin board. If you have field personnel, have them sign off that they understand they are required to take their break. Trust me, you can’t do enough. We are still getting calls from clients who have received letters from attorneys threatening lawsuits even in the face of the Brinker Restaurant case.
I will continue to post developments on this important topic.