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Total Articles: 41

Stop and Go: California Court Holds that Company Vehicle Does Not Transform Commute into Working Time

A California court recently issued a decision clarifying when certain commuting time does not constitute work time under state law. In Hernandez v. Pacific Bell Telephone Company, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, held that an employer's provision of a company vehicle to employees to use in traveling from their homes to their first customer appointments of the day and home from the last appointments of the day did not transform commute time into "hours worked." This decision should come as welcome news to California employers that provide company vehicles for voluntary use.

New California Law Creates Narrow Rest Break Exemption at Petroleum Facilities

On September 20, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2605. This new law provides that unionized employees at petroleum facilities who hold safety-sensitive positions are exempt from the requirement that employees be relieved of all duties during rest periods. The bill went into effect immediately and will remain in effect until January 1, 2021 with the ability to be extended.

Taco Bell Employee Discount Policy Did Not Violate California Meal Breaks Law, 9th Cir. Rules

California law requires that employees be relieved of all duty during meal breaks. As a result, an employer typically may not require employees to remain on the premises.

De Minimis No More? California Supreme Court Finds Modern Technology Requires Employers to Better Track and Compensate Employees for Minimal Amounts of Off-The-Clock Work

Today, the California Supreme Court issued its ruling in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation, and departed from federal law’s more employer-friendly version of the de minimis rule, which it characterized as stuck in the “industrial world.” In holding that Starbucks Corporation must compensate hourly employees for off-the-clock work that occurs on a daily basis and generally takes four to ten minutes after the employee clocks out at the end of their shift, the California Justices announced they were ensuring California law was in line with the modern technologies that have altered our daily lives. De minimis means something is too minor or trivial to take into account, and the Court clarified what is trivial and what is not.

No Meal Break Violation Where Employees Are Incentivized to Stay Onsite Through Offer of Discounted Meal

Today, the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Rodriguez v. Taco Bell Corp., upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Taco Bell on class claims for alleged meal break violations. In this case, Taco Bell authorized and permitted employees to take meal breaks during which they were relieved of duty and free to leave the premises. However, Taco Bell offered employees the option of purchasing a discounted meal at Taco Bell, in which case they had to remain on site to eat it (in order to prevent theft/abuse associated with employees bringing discounted food to third parties outside the restaurant). Because no good deed ever goes unpunished in California, a class action lawsuit was filed against Taco Bell alleging that their practices violated California law by denying employees lawful meal breaks.

6 FAQs on California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules

California’s meal and rest break rules are extremely technical and nuanced—and a failure to properly comply with them can result in penalties. Here are answers to six frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding compliance with this intricate area of California labor and employment law.

DLSE Reverses Its Position on California Rest Breaks

In November 2017, the California Labor Commissioner’s office, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”), published updated guidance on employer provided paid 10-minute rest breaks.

Separate Compensation for Rest Breaks and Non-Productive Time Required for Non-Exempt Commissioned Employees

On February 28, 2017, in Vaquero, et al. v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District ruled that Wage Order 7-2001 (mercantile industry) requires employers to separately compensate non-exempt commissioned employees for rest breaks. It further held that the same analysis applies to “any other compensation system that does not separately account for rest breaks and other nonproductive time.” A link to the opinion can be found here.

Commissioned California Employees Must Be Separately Compensated for Rest Periods

On February 28, 2017, the California Court of Appeal issued a significant decision in Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC (No. B269657). The decision, which was certified for publication, is the first ruling by a California appellate court requiring employers to separately compensate commissioned employees—as opposed to employees paid by piece rate—for rest periods.

California Court Confirms Healthcare Meal Waivers Have Always Been Valid

In a somewhat unusual ruling last week, a California Court of Appeal announced that its previous February 2015 decision in the case of Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, which partially invalidated healthcare meal waivers, was wrong. Accordingly, as a result of the March 1, 2017 ruling, healthcare employers in California will not face retroactive liability if they used waivers prior to October 5, 2015.

Commissioned Employees Must Be Paid Separately for Rest Breaks

This week, a California Court of Appeal issued its decision in Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC, holding that an employer violated California law by failing to pay commissioned employees for rest breaks. California law requires that employees be provided with a paid 10-minute rest break for each four hours, or major fraction thereof, worked. In this case, the employer, which operates retail furniture stores in California, provided rest breaks to its sales associates but the court held that the employer’s commission pay plan did not compensate associates for these rest breaks. The employer’s commission plan provided that associates would be paid a guaranteed minimum hourly rate ($12 per hour) for all hours worked and that this minimum would operate as a draw against commissions.

California Court Provides Additional Guidance on Timekeeping Rounding, Grace Period Claims

Under California law, employers’ policies may permit rounding of employee timecard entries to the nearest tenth of an hour (six minutes), the Fourth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal has affirmed. Silva v. See’s Candy Shops, Inc., No. D068136 (Dec. 9, 2016, published Jan. 5, 2017) (“See’s Candy II”). The Court also offered guidance on the circumstances that comply with the timekeeping standards.

California Supreme Court Tells Employees To Rest Assured

Executive Summary: After a years-long battle, the California Supreme Court finally issued a ruling defining what it means for an employer to provide a rest break to non-exempt employees under California law: rest breaks cannot be “on-duty” or “on-call,” as employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time. This includes a prohibition against requiring employees to keep work cell phones, pagers, and walkie talkies on during breaks, but it may also prohibit other policies such as requiring employees to stay on the premises during breaks or single/limited staffing models.

Employees on Rest Breaks Must Be Off Duty, California Supreme Court Rules

A class of security guards received an early holiday present from the California Supreme Court on December 22.

California Supreme Court: On-Call Rest Breaks Are Not Permissible

Today the California Supreme Court issued a surprising and unfortunate decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., holding that employers cannot require employees to remain “on-call” during rest breaks, even though these short breaks are part of the employees’ paid hours worked. The Court held that the same standard that applies to off-duty meal breaks applies to paid rest break time. More specifically, California law requires that during unpaid, off-duty meal breaks, employees must be relieved of all duties and free from employer control as to how they spend their time. The Court today held that this is also true for paid rest break time and that an employer does not comply with this standard if it requires employees to remain “on-call,” i.e. viligant and available for possible interruption during rest breaks. This ruling results in the potential reinstatement of a $90 million verdict against the security company, whose security guards remained on-call during rest breaks and carried radios or other communication devices in the event they needed to return to work. Even though the record showed that breaks were rarely interrupted and that this on-call requirement was tied to the nature of the work as a security guard, the Court held that the on-call requirement invalidated the rest breaks.

Should You Still Be Worried About Meal and Rest Breaks?

Meal and rest breaks are important because missed breaks create significant liability. An employee who misses a meal period or takes a late meal period or a short meal period is owed a penalty.

California Supreme Court to Address De Minimis Time

Last week, the California Supreme Court agreed to review Troester v. Starbucks, a case involving the issue of whether de minimis work time must be compensated under California law. In Troester, the plaintiff was a former employee of Starbucks who sued the coffee giant because he was not paid for certain closing-related activities such as time spent walking out of the store after activating the alarm and time spent locking the door -- activities that took a minute or two and effectively had to be performed after the plaintiff clocked out on Starbucks' timekeeping software. Plaintiff sued for unpaid wages under California law. A federal district court in California granted summary judgment in favor of Starbucks, ruling that this "work" time was de minimis and that Plaintiff was not owed compensation for it. Plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Ninth Circuit Upholds Time Rounding Policy

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit issued its decision in Corbin v. Time Warner-Advance Newhouse, rejecting an employee’s claim that he was unlawfully denied compensation for hours worked due to his employer’s poilcy of rounding time entries to the nearest quarter hour. The Ninth Circuit further rejected the employee’s claim that the trial court erroneously denied class certification on the rounding claim.

House Passes Transportation Bill with Meal and Rest Break Implications

On November 5, 2015, the House of Representatives approved a transportation funding bill with an amendment that would reverse a 2014 Ninth Circuit decision that California's meal and rest break laws are not preempted under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA). This amendment is of critical importance to truck operators in California as well as the rest of the country.

Health Care Workers Allowed to Waive Meal Period

On October 5, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill confirming that employees in the health care industry can waive one of their two meal periods when working a shift of over eight hours in a workday. This law clarifies confusion caused by a recently decided appellate case, Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, 234 Cal.App.4th 285 (C.A. 4th, 2015) (review granted). The Gerard case is currently under review by the California Supreme Court.

Answering The Call

California leads the nation in vigilantly regulating the conditions which constitute “hours worked.” Definitions are established, modified, and expanded by the California Labor Code, its Wage Orders, and decisions by appellate courts. The California Supreme Court recently made clear that California’s standard defining “hours worked” is more protective of employees than the rules set forth under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

California Court Decision on Meal Breaks May Cause Health Care Industry To Go To Code Blue

Executive Summary: A new California Court of Appeal decision has invalidated a 22-year-old healthcare industry exception that had given the industry some flexibility with respect to how it provided its employees working extra-long shifts with meal breaks. The decision is expected to have serious and immediate ramifications for employers in the patient care industry not only because of its invalidation of a long-standing exception but also because of its retroactive effect on previously existing practices.

New California Court of Appeal Opinion Provides Guidance on Rest Breaks

Executive Summary: On January 29, 2015, a California appeals court published a modified version of an opinion examining, in part, an employer's obligation under the state's rest break requirements. Critically, the opinion concludes that the rest break requirement only prescribes that an employee not be required to work on a rest break, not that he or she be relieved of all duties. The opinion provides much needed guidance to employers in understanding the distinction between California's meal and rest break requirements.

California Supreme Court Rules On-Duty Guards Entitled to Pay for On-Call and Sleep Time

On January 8, 2015, the California Supreme Court issued a decision holding that the on-call hours for security guards who work 24-hour shifts constituted compensable hours worked. Further, the court ruled that the guards’ employer could not exclude “sleep time” from the guards’ 24-hour shifts and in doing so rejected the analysis under earlier California decisions, Monzon v. Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc. (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 16 and Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 361. Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc., No. S212704, California Supreme Court (January 8, 2015).

FAAAA Does Not Preempt California Meal and Rest Period Requirements

In Godfrey v, Oakland Port Services Corp., which was decided on October 28, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a published decision holding that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA) does not preempt California’s meal and rest period requirements. The case is significant because it is the latest California decision holding that the FAAAA does not preempt California’s wage and hour laws

California Corner: Employers Face New Heat for Missed Recovery Periods

Effective January 1, 2014, SB 435 expanded the scope of Cal. Labor Code Section 226.7 (known for providing premium pay for missed meal and rest periods) to require employers of outdoor workers to provide premium pay to employees who missed "recovery periods." A recovery period is defined as a "cooldown period afforded to employee to prevent heat illness."

Late Breaking News

As most California employers know, the state generally requires that all employees who work more than five hours must be provided an unpaid, duty-free meal period of no less than 30 minutes, to commence before the end of the fifth hour of work, and a second meal period of similar length if employees work more than 10 hours, to commence before the end of the tenth hour of work. In most cases, the employee must be free to leave the premises, and the meal period must be documented on the employee’s time record.

A Closer Look At The Brinker Decision

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court decided Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court (Hohnbaum), pending since 2008. We reported on the decision in a Legal Alert, and in an extended webinar, which you can access here and here. Because it's such a significant decision, more remains to be said.

Is Immoos A Bigger Win For Employers Than Brinker?

On April 12th, 2012, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court. The decision finally determined that employers do not need to ensure that their employees take advantage of legally-mandated meal and rest periods. Employers need only provide employees the opportunity to do so. An employer is not liable for a missed meal or rest period if such a break is provided but the employee voluntarily chooses not to take one – or voluntarily chooses to work during the break or end the break early. We reported on the decision in a Legal Alert, which you can access here.

California Supreme Court Hands Down Major Decision On Meal And Rest Periods

On April 12, 2012 the California Supreme Court clarified the meal- and rest-period laws, as well as standards for class certification for these claims, and for off-the-clock claims. This case has been pending before the court since 2008, and its legal impact of the decision is far reaching. Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego.

California Supreme Court Issues Major Victory For Employers In Brinker Case

Today, the California Supreme Court finally issued its opinion in Brinker v. Superior Court, a case that had been on its docket since 2008. In what has generally been acknowledged as a major victory for California employers, the court issued clear rules on how and when meal and rest periods must be provided. In addition, the justices provided additional important comments on the standards to be applied by trial courts in considering motions for class certification in cases generally. Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. The Superior Court of San Diego County

Court Finds Meal And Rest Period Rules Preempted For Some Employers

California law mandates that employers provide employees who work more than five hours with a 30-minute meal break prior to the sixth hour of work, and a second 30-minute meal period for employees who work more than 10 hours. Employees are also entitled to a 10-minute rest period for every four hours, or major portion thereof, worked. A recent court ruling held that these regulations are preempted by a federal law which covers motor carriers. Dilts v. Penske Logistics.

Take A Break: Meal and Rest Break Court Rulings Demand Caution From Franchise Employers

Almost five years ago, in April 2006, nearly 59,000 employees obtained class certification in a lawsuit claiming that Brinker Restaurant Group violated California labor laws by failing to ensure that its non-exempt employees took meal and rest breaks. In July of 2008, the appeals court vacated the class certification based upon a finding that employers need not ensure that meal and rest breaks are taken. The California Supreme Court then vacated the decision and granted review on October 22, 2008. Much to the chagrin of California employers and employees seeking clarity on the issue, the Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling in Brinker Restaurant Group v. Superior Court.

Court Rules On Premium Payments For Denied Meal And Rest Periods

California law regulates meal and rest periods, requiring employers to provide their employees an unpaid 30-minute meal period after working for five hours, and a second meal period after 10 hours, with a 10-minute rest period for each four hours of work or major fraction thereof. Employees required to work through their breaks are entitled to a premium payment subject to a limit each day.

New Exemption to the Meal-Period Requirement

On September 30, 2010, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill providing an additional exemption to the current meal-period requirements. Existing law requires that all employees in California, with certain exceptions, receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes beginning before the fifth hour of work. The new exemption will apply to employees in certain occupations or industries who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Employers Who Win Meal and Rest-Period Claims Can Recover Fees and Costs

Employees and their attorneys have good reason to be more cautious in filing certain wage claims against employers. If they lose, they could be ordered to pay an employer's defense costs and attorneys' fees. California Labor Code § 218.5 permits prevailing employers to recover their fees and costs for any "action brought for the nonpayment of wages.…"

Documentation Beyond Timekeeping Saves Dollars.

California employers continue to learn the hard lessons resulting from the failure to adequately keep time records or monitor off-the-clock activities. Timekeeping errors that occur systematically and continue unchecked can accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability, not to mention potential penalties and attorneys' fees in defending class action complaints addressing such deficiencies. The failure to keep accurate time records almost certainly is the direct result of an employer's failure to train, retain, and monitor effective first line supervisors.

Meal And Rest Period Decision to Be Reviewed by High Court.

Last July we reported on Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, an employer-friendly decision by a California Appeals court which addressed the legal standards under California's laws on meals and rest periods for employees.

California - New Wage and Hour Ruling Welcomed by Employers.

The California Court of Appeal recently overturned a class certification order in a lawsuit brought by a group of hourly, non-exempt employees who claimed that they were denied rest and meal periods and were forced to work off the clock. In a key ruling, the court held that employers “need not ensure meal breaks are actually taken, but need only make them available.” The court also held that the employer’s practice of providing an “early lunch” within the first hour of an employee’s shift did not violate California law, even where the employee might then have to work in excess of five consecutive hours without an additional meal period. The court found such “rolling five-hour” meal periods to be inconsistent with the plain meaning of the Labor Code. In addition, the court found that employers are liable for off-the-clock work only if they “knew or should have known” employees were working.

Appeals Court Decision Provides Clarity to Law Governing Meals and Rest Periods.

A California appellate court has handed down a long-awaited decision addressing legal standards for employee claims including meal and rest period violations. The court also overturned legal rulings regarding the employees' "off-the-clock" claims.

California Supreme Court Ruling Could Quadruple Potential Damages For Meal and Rest Period Violations.

The California Supreme Court has sent a shockwave through the California business community by ruling that premium pay issued to employees under California Labor Code section 226.7, to compensate them for missed meal and rest periods carries a three-year statute of limitations as opposed to a one-year statute of limitations.