Employer Need Not Ensure That No Work is Done By Employee During Lunch Hour-- Analysis to Follow
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Super. Ct. (SC S1663504/12/12) Wage and Hour: The Headnotes From the California Supreme Court
For the better part of a century, California law has guaranteed to employees wage and hour protection, including meal and rest periods intended to ameliorate the consequences of long hours. For most of that time, only injunctive remedies were available for violations of meal and rest period guarantees. In 2000, however, both the Legislature and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) adopted for the first time monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks. (Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1105-1106.) These remedies engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation, including the instant suit in which the trial court granted class certification and the Court of Appeal then issued writ relief and ordered three subclasses decertified.
We granted review to consider issues of significance to class actions generally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. We conclude, contrary to the Court of Appeal, that trial courts are not obligated as a matter of law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff’s claims, unless a particular determination is necessarily dispositive of the certification question. Because the parties have so requested, however, we nevertheless address several such threshold disputes here. On the most contentious of these, the nature of an employer’s duty to provide meal periods, we conclude 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 desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.
On the ultimate question of class certification, we review the trial court’s ruling for abuse of discretion. In light of the substantial evidence submitted by plaintiffs of defendants’ uniform policy, we conclude the trial court properly certified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclass certification, we remand to the trial court for reconsideration. With respect to the third contested subclass, covering allegations that employees were required to work “off-the-clock,” no evidence of common policies or means of proof was supplied, and the trial court therefore erred in certifying a subclass. Accordingly, because the Court of Appeal rejected certification of all three subclasses, we will affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.
KDG HRSolutions will present a special one hour program on the Brinker Decision and its Impact on California Employers
When: April 24, 2012
Where: Klein, DeNatale and Goldner
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