Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Here! The Supreme Court Issues The Brinker Decision

At 10 am today, the California Supreme Court issued its 54 page decision in Brinker.  The case was filed in 2004 by employees who challenged the company's meal and rest period practices.  The case presented a number of legal issues.  However, foremost among the issues is whether or not an employer is required to provide and ensure compliance with meal and rest periods, or whether the employer is required only to make them available to employees. 

Here is a link to the Supreme Court's decision:  Paste this website into your browser to take you to the opinion. 

You will be happy with the Court's decision!  Here is a quick summary of the Court's opinion: 

1.  An employer is obligated to provide an uninterrupted 30-minute meal period to employees.  This obligation is satisfied if it relieves employees of all duties, relinquishes control over activities and permits a reasonable opportunity to take the meal period without impediment or discouragement.  The employer is not obligated to police meal periods and ensure that no work is performed.  An employee can waive the meal period by continuing to work.  Further, proof that an employer had knowledge of employees working through a meal period does not alone subject the employer to liability for premium pay.  The employee must show employer interference with that right. 

2.  Rest periods must be provided to employees as follows:  10 minutes for shifts of 3.5 to 6 hours; 20 minutes for shifts from 6 to 10 hours; 30 minutes for shifts from 10 to 14 hours, etc.

3.  An employer is not required to provide a rest period before a meal period.  However, an employer must make a good faith effort to permit rest periods in the middle of each work period unless practical considerations render it infeasible.  

4.  The meal period must be provide no later than the start of the employee's sixth hour of work.  The second meal period must be provided no later than the start of the employee's eleventh hour of work (unless waived). 

We hope you will join FLGZ at its Legal Beagle Bagel Breakfast this month discussing the impact of the Brinker decision on your operations.  The workshop will be held on Wednesday, April 25th at 8 am in my office.  Please register to attend in person, or by telephone, by contacting our receptionist, Danielle, at or by calling 559.256.5000. 


  1. Hello Doug,

    Great summary!I have a couple of quick questions. I'm sure if I attended the workshop, I could get answers, but I will not be able to attend.

    If the employee opts not to take the meal period and works through the meal period do we need a meal waiver on file or does a verbal discussion with their supervisor suffice ? If time card is recorded as working through a meal period can we be penalized?

    M Balling
    California Water Services

    1. I am glad you saw the blog because I remember your issue. Let me study the decision before giving you a final answer. (I want to make sure I understand the court's position on interfering with an employee's meal period.) However, it would not be a meal period waiver because the employee works more than 8 hours. It would not be an on-duty meal period, because you are not requiring it. I think it would be sufficient to have a notation that the employee is entitled to a meal period, the company does not interfere with her schedule, and if she misses a meal, it is because she chooses not to take a meal period.

    2. Thanks, Doug. I'll look forward to hearing your final input. Our employees are in the field and would really rather work through their lunch, however because of the Brinker case we required them to stop. If the meal period is offered and not taken and we are not penalized, it would be a win-win for both of us. I'll dial into the Legal Beagle breakfast.

  2. Finally, a significant victory for employers. Unfortunately, it just makes sense and I would only hope that more decisions are based on reality and common sense than hyper-positioning by contingency counsel.

  3. Yeah! I am so glad that the Legal Beagle Bagel Breakfast will focus on this issue. Now that we have a decision, I am also wondering how much of this do we want to implement. Do we want to tell employees that they have the option to waive their breaks? Could that cause a negative vibe in the workplace?


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