California law requires that employers provide employees a meal break of not less than 30 minutes if the daily work period is at least five hours long. The meal break can be waived by mutual consent if the work period is no longer than six hours.
If the work period is more than 10 hours per day, a second meal break of at least 30 minutes is also required. Collective bargaining agreements and Industrial Welfare Commission Orders can revise these requirements for unionized workers or those in particular fields (e.g. the motion picture industry).
Recently, companies have faced a growing number of lawsuits filed by employees for failure to provide meal periods as required by law. One novel question being asked
is whether companies are required to ensure that their employees take advantage of their meal breaks, or if an employer meets its legal obligation by making a meal
period available, regardless of whether the employee actually uses it. A decision is pending from the California Supreme Court on this issue as part of Brinker
Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court.
Meanwhile, a $1.5 million settlement was recently approved by a US District Judge in San Francisco to compensate trainee termite inspectors who did not receive meal
breaks from Terminix.
The Brinker decision should bring some needed guidance to this area of the law. But the general proposition that meal breaks are required is indisputable and employers
should conduct themselves accordingly.
Contact Schein & Cai for all of your employment law needs. Our attorneys have handled a variety of employment law disputes with great success and client
satisfaction. We offer a free initial consultation.
Find us at www.sacattorneys.com.