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California Court of Appeal Shines More Light on Meal and Rest Break Class Actions

Posted in Labor, Wage & Hour

In Flores v. Lamps Plus, Inc., the California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles joined a growing list of California appellate courts recently holding that class certification is not proper in meal and rest break cases. Significantly, the court in Lamps Plus found that California law requires employers to provide employees with meal and rest breaks, not to ensure the breaks are taken. Because plaintiffs would have to show why they missed a break — and not simply establish that they did not receive a break — the Court found that individualized inquiries were necessary to establish violations of the Labor Code, and therefore class treatment was not appropriate.

Lamps Plus had a policy requiring all non-managerial employees to take meal and rest breaks as required by California labor law and regulations, and employed a progressive discipline policy for those who violated it. The plaintiffs argued that the law required Lamps Plus to not only provide them with meal breaks, but to ensure that they actually took the breaks. The Court rejected this argument, concluding that the language in the applicable statute and Wage Order “does not mean employers must ensure employees take meal breaks[, but r]ather, employer must only provide breaks, meaning, making them available.” The Court noted that “[t]he notion that an employer must ensure all employees take their meal and rest periods is utterly impracticable.”

This issue is pending before the California Supreme Court in a pair of closely-watched cases. We will continue to monitor this issue and report on it.

  • Marc Koenigsberg

    The California Supreme Court granted review of this case on July 21, 2011. The Court stated further action in this matter is deferred pending consideration and disposition of a related issue in Brinker Restaurant v. Superior Court, S166350 (see Cal. rules of Court, rule 8.524 (c)), or pending further order of the court. Stay tuned.