Will the California Supreme Court Agree to Clarify Meal & Rest Break Laws?

As California employers know, one of the hottest issues in wage & hour litigation is on the subject of meal and rest breaks.  On August 1, 2019, the Ninth Circuit court, in Cole v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc. asked the California Supreme Court to provide clarification on two key issues:

  • Does the absence of a formal policy regarding meal and rest breaks violate California law?
  • Does an employer’s failure to keep records for meal and rest breaks taken by its employees create a rebuttable presumption that the meal and rest breaks were not provided?

In Cole, the employee driver argued that the Employer did not comply with California’s meal and rest break laws even if the employer did not prevent its employees from taking their breaks.  Depending on whether or not the California Supreme Court agrees to answer these questions, and how these questions are answered, the way California employers do business will be impacted.

Previously, in Brinker Rest. Corp. v. Superior Court, 273 P.3d 513 (Cal. 2012) the leading decision in California on meal and rest breaks, the California Supreme Court outlined an employer’s duties related to employee breaks.  The Court stated that the employer satisfies is obligation to provide meal periods by relieving the employee of all duty, relinquishing control and giving them 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to do whatever they choose wherever they chose to take their break.  Very importantly, the Court stated that employers did not have to “police meal breaks” and “ensure no work thereafter is performed.”  What they did not say, however, was whether the absence of a policy providing for meal and rest breaks constitutes a violation of California labor law.  (See Brinker) While other cases since Brinker have opined on whether the absence of uniform policy related to meal and rest breaks supports a potential violation or rebuttable presumption of one giving rise to class certification for starters, the California Supreme Court has not yet made their position clear.  Now in Cole we hope the Court agrees to answer the questions and provide specific expectations for employers.

With the constant barrage of wage & hour lawsuits by employees, most containing meal and rest break claims, what’s an employer to do to protect itself?  For more information on what employers can do now to create a clear meal and rest policy and what it should contain, contact the employer lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt.

This material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute, legal advice or promise similar outcomes.  For information on your particular circumstances, please contact Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500. (Photo credit: 123rf.com)

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