HR Compliance: New Ruling On Meal and Rest Period Requirements
On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court ruled that employees will now be free to take a 30-minute lunch break for each shift less than 10 hours. The ruling came in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, after the employer was allegedly requiring employees to work without meal and rest breaks. California employers must make these breaks available, relieve the employee of all their duties and allow the employees to decide to take breaks on their own, but need not ensure that workers take their authorized breaks. This decision is hoped to bring clarity to state break requirements and reduce the number of lawsuits that have plagued employers. The court went on to explain that under the Industrial Welfare Commission’s (IWC) orders, employees are entitled to 10 minutes of rest for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, and to another 10 minutes rest for shifts from six hours to 10 hours in length. Rest periods do not need to be timed to fall specifically before or after any meal period.
Steve Hirschfeld, founder and chief executive of the San Francisco-based labor and employment attorney network Employment Law Alliance, stated “What this ruling says, in essence, is that employers don’t have to babysit employees.” The decision clarifies that as long as the meal and rest periods are available and their usage is encouraged, employers are not liable for claims brought by employees that did not receive them.
SharedHR encourages California employers to review their employee handbooks and meal and rest period policies to ensure that the language is consistent with this decision.