Another California Appellate Court Holds That Employers Only Need to “Provide” Breaks

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In Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., the California Court of Appeal struck a blow in favor of California employers by upholding a trial court’s refusal to certify a class of employees pursuing claims of meal and rest break violations.

Specifically, the Court found that employers need only provide rest and meal periods – they do not need to ensure that they are taken. The Court also found that variances in the evidence submitted by the parties meant that the issues were too dissimilar to form a proper class. Finally, the Court found that time records showing that an employee did not take a meal break were not indicative of a meal break violation because the time records do not show why the employee missed his/her breaks.

Effectively, the Chipotle holding is quite similar to the Brinker v. Superior Court and Brinkley v. Public Storage cases currently pending before the California Supreme Court. These cases have been fully briefed since October 8, 2009 and employers have been waiting patiently for a decision. As of now, we still do not know when the Supreme Court will act, as oral argument has not yet been scheduled.

It is relatively safe to assume that the Chipotle decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court, but, unless and until the Supreme Court accepts review, Chipotle is “good law.”

Nonetheless, we still recommend that, until we know how the Supreme Court will rule in the Brinker and Brinkley cases, employers continue to ensure that employees actually take their full 30-minute meal breaks, starting no more than 5 hours after the beginning of an employee’s shift.

Via Silver & Freedman

Posted 11/3/10.