Court Decides Missed Lunches Are Not Enough to Establish Liability
Another California court has followed the logic of Brinker, in holding that employers need only provide their employees the opportunity to take a lunch break and need not ensure that such breaks are taken. In Tien v. Tenet Healthcare, class certification was denied in a case alleging claims for failure to provide meal and rest breaks. The court held that individual issues predominated over common issues because the evidence demonstrated there could be numerous individualized reasons why a meal or rest break was not taken on a given day, and the mere fact that time records revealed missed breaks was not enough to establish liability. Even though the Brinker and Brinkley cases are pending review by the California Supreme Court on the issue of what it means to “provide” a meal period, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court was permitted to follow the logic and reasoning of these cases in determining the propriety of class certification.
The Tien case is another in the line of recent cases showing a trend of courts in following the logic of Brinker/Brinkley, two cases that are still pending before the California Supreme Court. These case should be heard this year and hopefully the high court will uphold the lower court’s ruling.
Two Hours Maximum Premium Pay per Day for Missed Breaks
The California Labor Code generally requires employers to provide non-exempt employees with the opportunity to take a rest break for every four hours of work, as well as a lunch break for shifts in excess of five hours. The Labor Code further provides that if a meal or rest break is improperly denied, the employee may recover one hour of pay as a “premium” (in plain English, known as a penalty). What is unsettled in California is how many hours of premium pay an employee may recover in one day–one hour regardless of how many breaks are missed, one hour per missed meal break and one hour per missed rest break, or one hour for all meal breaks and one hour for all rest breaks? One court decided last week that an employee may recover up to one hour of pay per day for missed meal breaks and one hour of pay per day for missed rest breaks. The court relied on its interpretation of the plain language of the IWC Wage Orders and the administrative/legislative history behind them. The case is United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court (Allen).
Ok, Ok, I don’t want you guys going crazy with these articles! Remember, we still want to monitor breaks and lunches in the event the California Supreme Court rules against the employer. But for now at least we have some breathing room.