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CA Supreme Court Decides on Class Action Rest and Meal Break Lawsuit

April 13, 2012

This week, the California Supreme Court ruled in a case revolving around a class of restaurant workers--who claim they were denied proper rest and meal breaks from Brinker International, the parent company of Chili's eateries, among other restaurants.

According to news that Vincent Howard has been following, the state's Supreme Court reportedly authorized the class of restaurants workers, who first sued the company in 2004 on behalf of nearly 60,000 hourly, non-unionized employees, to proceed with their class action claim that the restaurant managers forced them to skip their meal breaks--by threatening to cut back their hours, and failing to keep the restaurants properly staffed so they had the opportunity for breaks.

In regard to the meal and rest break claims, California's highest court decided that under state law, an employer is not obligated to manage meal and rest breaks and ensure that workers take their legally mandated breaks, where no work is performed.

Vincent Howard has been closely watching this California labor and employment decision as it affects workers throughout Orange County, California and clarifies uncertain aspects of California's wage laws, that require more compensation for meal and rest break violations. Since 2001, California law has required that employers who violate meal and rest breaks must pay a monetary penalty that constitutes one hour of wages for a half-hour break that was missed.

In 2008, a California court of appeals reportedly found that Brinker only needed to make meal and rest breaks available, and was not responsible for ensuring that the breaks were taken by employees. The state Supreme Court also decided that employers do not have to enforce the breaks, but do need to make sure that workers are relieved of their duties at those break times. The court also reportedly set clearer guidelines for the timing and number of rest breaks each employee should take, upholding a lower court's decision to authorize a class action on these claims.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs claimed that although the court stated that employers do not have to mandate when the workers' take their rest and meal breaks, they will still argue in the lower court that Brinker's meal and break policies violate California state wage and hour laws.

In cities throughout Orange County, California, contact Vincent Howard and Howard Law, PC labor and employment legal team today, so we can fight for your labor and employment rights.

Workers' class action against Brinker can proceed, in part, Reuters, April 12, 2012

Court: Managers can't make workers take lunch break, USA Today, April 12, 2012

Calif. high court to decide lunch break lawsuit, Business Week, April 12, 2012

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

California Department of Industrial Relations, (DIR)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

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