CALIFORNIA COURT SIDES WITH EMPLOYERS ON MEAL BREAK CLAIM

A California Court of Appeals has found that the California meal break requirement requires that “employers need not ensure meal breaks are actually taken, but need only make them available.” The meal break regulation requires a 30 minute meal break for an employee who works more than five hours and the offering of a second 30 minute break if an employee works more than 10 hours. Those requirements have become the subject of numerous class action law suits, including many directed against trucking companies. In those suits, the plaintiffs allege that an employer must not only allow a meal break, but must ensure that it is actually taken. Rejecting that interpretation, the court noted such a view would be contrary to public policy and would create an “impossible task” for employers. The court further held that the issue of whether an employer allowed an employee an appropriate meal break requires an “individual inquiry” and that meal break claims are “not amenable to class treatment.” This denial of class action status makes these cases far less attractive to plaintiffs’ attorneys and should chill the current spate of meal break litigation. Gov. Schwarzenegger haled the decision, which is expected to be appealed to the California Supreme Court. Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court of San Diego Co., 2008 WL 2806613 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. July 22, 2008).