Rest and meal period cases continue to make headlines in California while employers await the California Supreme Court’s decision in Brinker Restaurant v. S. C., (review granted Oct. 22, 2008 (Brinker), and Brinkley v. Public Storage, (review granted Jan. 14, 2009 (Brinkley)).
In another positive decision for employers, the Second Appellate District Court upheld the lower court’s decision to deny class certification with respect to meal and rest break, Labor Code 203 penalties, and inaccurate itemized wage statement claims against Lamps Plus, Inc., et al. (“Lamps Plus”) on May 10, 2011. See, Lamps Plus Overtime Cases (CA2/8 B220954 5/10/11). The Court ruled that employers are not required to force employees to take meal periods. Rather, the employer should provide the employee an opportunity to take their meal periods. The Court held:
Consistent with the purpose of requiring employers to provide employees with meal breaks, the Labor Code and the IWC use mandatory language precluding employers from pressuring employees to skip breaks, declining to schedule breaks, or establishing a work environment discouraging or preventing employees from taking such breaks. (See, e.g., Lab. Code, § 226.7, subd. (a) [“No employer shall require any employee to work during any meal or rest period . . .”].) This mandatory language does not mean employers must ensure employees take meal breaks. Rather, employers must only provide breaks, meaning, make them available. Our interpretation of the meal break requirement is supported by the definition of the word “provide” as used in Labor Code sections 226.7, subdivision (b), and 512, subdivision (a) (“providing”), as well as California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 11070, subdivisions 11 and 12. (See fns. 5 & 6, ante.) “Provide” means “to supply or make available.” (Webster‟s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary (1993) p. 937.) The language regarding rest breaks is more permissive. An employer need only “authorize and permit” rest breaks. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11070, subd. 12, italics added.)
In addition to Brinker and Brinkley cases, there are several additional meal and rest break cases pending before the California Supreme Court. Employers should continue to monitor these cases with the hope the Supreme Court will finally provide some clarity regarding the debate over the State’s meal and rest period laws.