The California Supreme Court has ruled in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court that companies are not obligated to make sure that their employees take legally mandated lunch breaks. Companies must give nonexempt workers 30-minute meal breaks, but do not need to ensure their workers actually stop working during the breaks. Companies must give a meal break no later than the end of the fifth hour of work and a second break no later than the end of the 10th hour of work.
A publication from Seyfarth and Shaw LLP summarized the Court’s findings as follows:
- 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. Employers properly time meal breaks by providing the first break no later than the end of the fifth hour of work, and the second break 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 would occur if more than five consecutive hours of work occur 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 ordinarily should be permitted in the middle of each four-hour work period, but need not be provided before a meal break.
The Court’s descision sets an interesting precendent for other states to consider in future labor law cases.
Please see the following resources for more information:
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