Recently, the California Supreme Court issued the long awaited decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp v Superior Court. The Brinker decision addressed two issues that have led to numerous employment class actions over the years all throughout the state. The main issues addressed by the court were: (1) must an employer merely provide meal and rest periods or are they required to ensure the meal and rest periods are taken; and (2) when, during the shift must employees be given the meal and rest periods and how many need to be provided.
With respect to the first issue of what “providing the employee with a meal period” means, the Court concluded that “an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desired, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.” This decision has altered the employer’s obligation to police its employees to make sure the rest and meal periods are taken. However, the court did state that the employers may not do anything to hinder or interfere with the employee’s rest and meal periods.