Meal & Rest Breaks -- Employer's Duty Is To Provide Them, Not Guarantee Employees Take Them

One of the hottest legal issues in the employment arena concerns meal and rest breaks.  Under the California Labor Code and Wage and Hour Orders issued by the Industrial Welfare Commission.  Pursuant to Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512, employers must provide employees with meal and rest periods as mandated by the IWC, and they must provide meal periods of not less than 30 minutes if an employee works a shift of over 5 hours per day.  The IWC has mandated that rest breaks be for 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.  If an employer fails to comply, there are penalties, such as one hour’s wages for each day that fails to include the mandatory meal or rest break. (See, e.g., IWC Wage Order 5-2001 at subds. 11 & 12 [applicable to restaurant workers], 8 Cal. Code Admin. Regs. § 11050.)

For years, a quesiton lingered as to whether employers must also ensure that meal breaks are taken. Finally, the state supreme court settled the issue in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004 (2012), when it held that the employer must make the breaks available, but need not "ensure" that the employees take them.

Our firm regularly advise employers, unions, and individual employees about issues that arise in the workplace. Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or issues in this area.

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