California Supreme Court ruling could clarify meal-break laws

California and federal labor and employment laws are meant to protect employees in San Diego and throughout the entire state from sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, privacy violations, defamation and other job rights issues that may arise in the workplace. However, these laws can also be complex and sometimes an employee may not be sure whether or not his or her rights have been violated in any way by a co-worker or by an employer.

Some employment and labor law issues that have been the cause of much confusion and litigation in California are state laws that regulate the types of meal breaks and rest breaks employers are required to offer to employees.

For example, restaurant workers are required under California law to take a meal break after every five hours of work. But in 2004, five Chili’s employees sued the restaurant’s parent company for denying them their meal breaks. Attorneys for the parent company argue that California’s laws do not specify that employees must be forced to take these breaks. Instead, state laws only specify that employers must offer breaks to eat and to rest.

A ruling is expected to be made next week by the California Supreme Court in the case involving the Chili’s workers. Many believe that the Supreme Court’s ruling will help to provide more clarity regarding meal breaks and rest breaks. The court may determine whether employers are to force employees to take these breaks or to simply provide workers with the option to take a break or not.

Although current laws regarding employee breaks may be clarified next week by the Supreme Court, some have pointed out that a ruling in favor of the Chili’s employees will not necessarily mean that other employees can take legal action against employers who committed similar violations in the past. We will revisit this topic when the Supreme Court issues its ruling in the case.

Source: Restaurant News, “Meal break lawsuit could affect California restaurants,” Lisa Jennings, March 30, 2012

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