Court Condemns Employer Policies that "Discourage" Meal Breaks -- Tien v. Tenet Healthcare Corporation

The opinion in Tien v. Tenet Healthcare Corporation is a bit of a split decision on meal breaks.  On one hand, the Court upheld the trial court's denial of class certification in a meal break case.  On the other hand, the Court endorsed an interpretation of the meal law in which an employer may be liable merely for creating "a work environment that discourages employees from taking their breaks."

Consistent with the purpose of requiring employers to provide employees with meal breaks, the Labor Code uses mandatory language . . . precluding employers from pressuring employees to skip breaks, declining to schedule breaks, or establishing a work environment that discourages employees from taking their breaks.

While this is hardly a strict liability standard, it does focus attention on the employer's overall "work environment," which would tend to favor class certification in many cases.  Once again, the take-away message for employers is to have an active, good faith compliance program. 


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