On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision clarifying what employers must do to meet the obligation to “provide” meal and rest periods.
Under the ruling in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, employers are required to:
- Provide non-exempt employees the opportunity to take an unpaid, uninterrupted 30-minute meal period;
- Relieve employees of all duty and relinquish control over their activities during the 30- minute meal period;
- Do nothing to impede or discourage employees from taking the meal period;
- Provide the meal period no later than the start of an employee’s sixth hour of work;
- Keep records of the start and end time of the meal period;
- Pay straight time for all time worked, including when an employee works during all of any part of the meal period;
- Pay overtime if the employee works more than 8 hours a day as a result of skipping or taking a short meal period; and
- Provide paid rest breaks of ten minutes net for every 4 hours worked or major fraction thereof. This means the employee is entitled to 10 minutes’ rest for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, 20 minutes for shifts of more than six hours up to 10 hours, 30 minutes for shifts of more than 10 hours up to 14 hours, and so on.
Employers are not required to:
- Police meal periods and rest breaks or make sure employees take meal periods and rest breaks.
- Pay one-hour’s wages as a penalty if the employee voluntarily skips or takes a short meal period or rest break.
- Allow employees to leave early if they work through all or part of their meal period or rest break.
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