Brinker v. Superior Court: Employers Need Not "Ensure" Meal Periods Are Taken

The California Court of Appeal today issued its eagerly-awaited Brinker decision, which handed a big victory to employers and helped to clarify the standards that apply to the provision of meal periods under Labor Code section 512. To cut right to the chase, the Appellate Court summarized its decision as follows:

Specifically, we conclude that (1) while employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking rest periods, they need only provide, not ensure, rest periods are taken; (2) employers need only authorize and permit rest periods every four hours or major fraction thereof and they need not, where impracticable, be in the middle of each work period; (3) employers are not required to provide a meal period for every five consecutive hours worked; (4) while employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking meal periods, they need only provide them and not ensure they are taken; and (5) while employers cannot coerce, require or compel employees to work off the clock, they can only be held liable for employees working off the clock if they knew or should have known they were doing so. We further conclude that because the rest and meal breaks need only be "made available" and not "ensured," individual issues predominate and, based upon the evidence presented to the trial court, they are not amenable to class treatment.

We’ll be blogging further about the Brinker decision, but the gist of the above-quoted holding is pretty self-explanatory. There is no longer any argument that employers are “strictly liable” for non-compliance with meal or rest period policies. And as a result, class certification will be far more difficult to obtain.
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