Employers Beware – Two Penalties May Be Imposed for Meal & Rest Break Violations

An employer who fails to provide break time to employees may be subject to certain penalties.  The key law in this area is section 226.7 of the code section is section 226.7 of the California Labor Code.  It states that an employer who fails to provide an employee with a meal or rest periods must pay that person one additional hour of pay “for each work day that the meal or rest period is not provided.”

But what if the employer violates both prongs of the statute? That is, suppose the employer fails to provide both a rest break and a meal break.  Can two penalties be imposed?  Or only one?

In United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court, the court of appeal ruled that double penalties apply.  (Actually, it is not a double penalty, but rather, a separate penalty – one for the rest break violation and one of the meal break violation.) 

The judicial ruling states:  “In short, we conclude, based upon the wording of section 226.7, subdivision (b), the legislative and administrative history of the statute and IWC wage orders, the public policy behind the statute and wage orders, and also the principle that we are to construe section 266.7 broadly in favor of protecting employees, that the employees in this case may recover up to two additional hours of pay on a single work day for meal period and rest period violations – one for failure to provide a meal period and another for failure to provide a rest period.”

This case is a clear message to employers:  comply with the rest/meal break requirements or risk penalties.  A complete copy of the original court of appeal ruling is attached, along with the expanded opinion that was issued after rehearing.

(Note:  Currently pending is the issue of whether an employer’s obligation is to simply provide the breaks, as opposed to ensuring that employees actually take them. That case is the Brinker Restaurants case, pending before the California Supreme Court. We will report on it once the court comes to a decision.)

Litigation Topics: