Meal and Rest Break Litigation Gets More Expensive

First Quarter 2011Newsletters California Update Employment Law

Until now, there was no definitive authority on how meal period and rest period compensation should be calculated. Labor Code § 226.7(b) provides that employers must pay employees “one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each work day that the meal or rest period is not provided.” Employers have argued that employees were therefore due just one hour of compensation regardless of how many breaks were missed in a day. Employees, on the other hand, argued in favor of receiving two hours of compensation on any day that they missed both a meal break and a rest break.

In a blow to employers defending meal and rest break litigation, a California Court of Appeal recently decided, to the favor of employees, that employees are entitled to up to two additional hours of wages each day for missed meal and rest breaks. The case is United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court, No. B227190 (Feb. 16, 2011). While we anticipate that this decision will soon be appealed to the Supreme Court, employers should continue to monitor their meal and rest break compliance and evaluate their payroll practices to comply with this decision.