DLSE Manual Updated
No Review of Bufil v. Dollar Financial

DLSE Memo Instructs Enforcement of Brinker Holding

The DLSE is making sure all of its hearing officers follow Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Hohnbaum) (2008) ___ Cal.App.4th ___. Here is the memo that was sent out by Angela Bradstreet on July 25:

Binding Court Ruling on Meal and Rest Period Requirements

On July 22, 2008, the California Court of Appeal issued its decision in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Hohnbaum), (2008) ___ Cal.App.4th ___ , 2008 WL 2806613.  The court in Brinker decided several significant issues regarding the interpretation of California’s meal and rest period requirements.  The decision is a published decision, and its rulings are therefore binding upon the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE).

The decision in Brinker included the following rulings regarding the interpretation of California’s meal and rest period requirements:

Meal Periods

• The court held that Labor Code § 512 and the meal period requirements set forth in the applicable wage order mean that employers must provide meal periods by making them available, but need not ensure that they are taken.  Employers, however, cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking meal periods.

• The court rejected the so-called “rolling five-hour” requirement as being inconsistent with the plain meaning of Labor Code § 512 and the applicable wage order.   An employer must make a first 30-minute meal period available to an hourly employee who is permitted to work more than five hours per day, unless (1) the employee is permitted to work a “total work period per day” that is six hours or less, and (2) both the employee and the employer agree by “mutual consent” to waive the meal period.   The court also found section 512 to plainly provide that an employer must make a second 30-minute meal period available to an hourly employee who has a “work period of more than 10 hours per day” unless (1) the “total hours” the employee is permitted to work per day is 12 hours or less, (2) both the employee and the employer agree by “mutual consent” to waive the second meal period, and (3) the first meal period “was not waived.”  

Employers are not required to provide a meal period for every five consecutive hours worked.   The court held that the employer’s practice of providing employees with an “early lunch” within the first few hours of an employee’s arrival at work did not violate California law, even though that would mean that the employee might then work in excess of five hours without an additional meal period.

Rest Periods

• The court held that the rest period requirements set forth in the applicable wage order mean that employers must provide rest periods, but need not ensure that they are taken.  Employers, however, cannot impede, discourage or dissuade employees from taking rest periods.

• The court held that employers need only authorize and permit rest periods every four hours or major fraction thereof and they need not, where impracticable, be in the middle of each work period.   The court interpreted the phrase “major fraction thereof” to mean the time period between three and one-half hours and four hours and not to mean that a rest period must be given every three and one-half hours.   In so doing, the court rejected as incorrect a 1999 interpretation by the Labor Commissioner that the term “major fraction thereof” means an employer must provide its employees with a 10-minute rest period when the employees work any time over the midpoint of each four hour block of time.   The court ruled that the rest periods must be given if an employee works between three and one-half hour and four hours, but if four or more hours are worked, it need be given only every four hours, not every three and one-half hours.

The court also ruled that the applicable wage order rest period provisions do not require employers to authorize and permit a first rest period before the first scheduled meal period.  Rather, the applicable language of the wage order states only that rest periods “insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period.”  Accordingly, the court concluded, as long as employers make rest periods available to employees, and strive, where practicable, to schedule them in the middle of the first four-hour work period, employers are in compliance with that portion of the applicable wage order.

The court relied upon the plain meaning of the Labor Code and applicable wage order provisions in making its determinations.  The court found persuasive the reasoning in the federal district court decisions in White v. Starbucks (ND Cal. July 2, 2007) 497 F.Supp.2d 1080 and Brown v. Federal Express Corp. (CD Cal. Feb. 26, 2008) 2008 WL 906517, and concluded that employers need not ensure meal periods are actually taken, but need only make them available.   The court distinguished the decision in Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2006) 133 Cal.App.4th 949, concluding that the facts in Cicairos established that the employer failed to make meal periods available to employees and that the court there only decided meal periods must be provided, not ensured.

All staff must follow the rulings in the Brinker decision effective immediately and the decision shall be applied to pending matters.  Please ensure that any wage claim filed with DLSE that has a meal or rest period issue is reviewed by your Senior Deputy prior to making any final determination on its merits.

The DLSE posted copies of the memo, with footnotes omitted above, in both pdf and word format.

Comments

CabDesse

i am gonna show this to my friend, guy

D.M.

It would be a gross miscarriage of justice for the DLSE not to immediately withdraw this memo. Now that Brinker is unciteable, Cicairos is again the law of the land until the Supreme Court rules on the merits in Brinker.

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