The California Supreme Court issued a long awaited ruling on a case filed nine years ago against Dallas based Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and other restaurants. Restaurant workers complained that missed breaks were in violation of California labor law.
Employers are not required to ensure that their employees take meal and rest breaks or that employees do not work during meal and rest breaks. However, employers are still required to allow employees to take meal and rest breaks. The Supreme Court found it unmanageable for employers to order breaks, and that decisions to take breaks should be left to the employees. The ruling further clarified that state law does not require employers to ensure that employees cease all work during meal periods. Again, the employer must allow employees to be free of job duties during break and meal periods, but the employee may choose to use the time to work without fault to the employer.
How Many Breaks and How Long?
Read the interpretation of the ruling written by Pascal Benyamini and Fey Epling of Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP. They explain the verdict succinctly and reiterate California Labor Law on when and how long meal and rest breaks should be allowed.
What does this mean for Commercial Drivers?
According to Michael Shaw, Vice President of External Affairs for the California Trucking Association (CTA):
“For California highly-skilled truck drivers, these rules create daily challenges from a highway safety standpoint,” said Michael Shaw, Vice President, External Affairs, of the California Trucking Association (CTA). “Responsible trucking companies already know the value of ensuring drivers are properly rested and allowed time to eat. And trucking companies already comply with strict federal laws that were recently amended to increase time to rest. The California rules at issue in the Brinker case only make highway safety harder to achieve,” Shaw added.
From the CTA email update: CTA Statement on CA Supreme Court Brinker Decision
We will continue to update this post as new information comes in.
Meal and rest breaks come under wage and hour issues, and these types of disputes can be covered by Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). Previously, wage and hour claims had been excluded on most EPLI policies, but more recently Insurers have begun including coverage for defense costs for these types of claims. As an example, an EPLI policy may have picked up defense costs in the 9 year Brinker lawsuit. If you’d like to discuss more about EPLI and your company’s exposure and coverage, please contact us.
**The disclaimer: nothing in this blog post should be construed as legal advice. For legal advice please contact an attorney directly.