BREAKING NEWS: California Supreme Court Rules on Meal and Rest Breaks (BRINKER)Thu Apr 12, 2012
This morning, in a unanimous decision in the long running case of Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, the State’s top court ruled that “Employers must relieve employees of all duty during meal periods but NEED NOT ensure that they perform no work”. Simply put, this is an important clarification in the difference between the obligation to provide the break vs. the obligation to ensure it is taken.
The Court further clarified that meal periods must be provided, generally no later than five hours into an employee’s shift, but an employer need not schedule meal breaks at five hour intervals.
On the question of rest periods, the court explained that under the Industrial Welfare Code, employees are entitled to 10 minutes of rest for shifts from three and one-half hours to six hours in length, and to another 10 minutes rest for shifts from six to 10 hours in length.
The unanimous opinion, authored by Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, the court explained that neither state statute nor the orders of the IWC compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods. Instead, under state law, an employer must provide its employees an uninterrupted 30-minute duty free period during which the employee is at liberty to come and go as he or she pleases.