California’s "New" Meal & Rest Period Rules

Last month, a California Appellate Court ruled employers don’t need to ensure meal and rest breaks – a substantial change from previous policy.

Now comes a succinct analysis of that ruling from the law firm Barker Olmsted and Barnier. The key points as summarized in their article:

The appellate court’s ruling included the following major points:

  1. Rest Periods Must Be “Provided” But Need Not Be Forced. While employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking rest periods, they need only “provide,” not ensure, that rest periods are taken.
  2. Flexible Timing of Rest Periods. Employers need only authorize and permit rest periods for every four hours or major fraction thereof worked, and they need not, where impracticable, be in the middle of each work period.
  3. Meal Periods Must Be “Provided” But Need Not Be Forced. While employers cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking meal periods, they need only “provide” them and need not ensure they are taken.
  4. Flexible Timing of Meal Periods. Employees are entitled to take meal periods when working more than five hours. But employers are not required to provide a meal period on a rolling five hour basis. That is, as long as an employer provides a meal period at some point during a shift, it doesn’t matter if the employee works more than five consecutive hours without taking that meal period.
  5. Liability For Known Off-Clock Work. 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.
  6. Class Action Unavailable. Because whether or not employees were provided a meal and rest period, and whether they worked off the clock, cannot be determined on a class-wide basis, but rather must be determined on an individual case-by-case basis, the lawsuit should not be certified as a class action.

Barker Olmsted & Barnier also agree with our assessment: Because this is an appellate court ruling, don’t change your practices just yet; the appeals have just begun.

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