Small Business Victory in California Supreme Court Decision

Sacramento, CA., April 16, 2012 — In a victory for employers, the California Supreme Court clarified a number of issues relating to an employer’s obligations under California Labor Code § 512(a), which states that employers must “provide” meal and rest periods to employees. The court held that an employer must relieve an employee of all duty for a meal period, but is not obligated to ensure that the employee does no work. The lawsuit was filed by five employees of Chili’s restaurant chain who claimed the restaurant illegally denied them meal and rest breaks.

In response to the decision, John Kabateck, NFIB/CA Executive Director, applauded the court’s common-sense approach, which he said “relieves small employers of the near-impossible task of monitoring all employees during breaks to ensure that no work is performed.”

The court also decided that if work does continue, the employer will not be liable for premium pay but will only have to pay for actual time worked if it “knew or reasonably should have known that the worker was working through the authorized meal period.”

Karen Harned, executive director, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, said that “the court’s finding on damages provides an important limitation that will help staunch the number of frivolous wage and hour claims filed by plaintiffs’ attorneys.”

The case is Brinker Restaurant Group v. Superior Court of San Diego. The NFIB Small Business Legal Center filed an amicus brief in the case.