Today, the California Supreme Court issued a lengthy opinion in its long-awaited “meal and rest break” case, Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court.
Here’s a brief summary of the opinion’s surprisingly favorable results to employers:
• Meal breaks. Employers must “provide” their non-exempt employees with 30-minute meal breaks in the sense of relieving the employees of all duty, but need not ensure that they actually cease to work during those breaks.
• Meal break timing. Meal breaks are properly timed so long as the first break is provided no later than the end of the fifth hour of work, and the second break is provided no later than the end of the tenth hour of work. (The court rejected the plaintiff’s proposed “rolling five-hour rule,” by which a violation occurs if more than five hours of work occurs without a meal break.)
• Rest breaks. Non-exempt employees are entitled to a single 10-minute rest break for a shift from 3.5 to 6.0 hours in length, two 10-minute rest breaks for a shift of more than 6.0 and up to 10.0 hours, and three 10-minute rest breaks for a shift of more than 10.0 hours and up to 14.0 hours.
• Rest break timing. Rest breaks should be permitted in the middle of each four-hour work period, but need not be provided before a meal break.
While employers may praise this decision for its favorable interpretation of meal and rest period requirements, one of the more alarming aspects of the decision is the Supreme Court’s holding with respect to class certification. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and employee groups may view the decision as lowering the bar on class certification and granting trial courts greater discretion to certify class actions before important legal issues are decided. Seyfarth Shaw will provide a more detailed blog post on the impact of the Brinker decision on wage-hour class actions in California. Seyfarth will also host a webinar on April 18th which will provide further analysis of the court’s opinion and its implications. Here is a link to the invitation with registration instructions. http://www.seyfarth.com/events/webinar-brinker-decision