HR Management & Compliance

Wage and Hour: Court Weighs in on Employers’ Meal Period Obligations

In California, employers must provide meal periods to employees at certain intervals. But must employers ensure that employees actually take their meal periods, or is it sufficient to offer the meal break time and leave it up to the employee to decide whether to take it? Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much guidance on these questions from the courts. But now, in a case involving allegations that Starbucks didn’t require nonexempt store managers to take meal breaks, a federal district court in San Francisco has weighed in—with some positive news for employers.

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The district court concluded that California law doesn’t require employers to ensure that employees take meal breaks or otherwise enforce meal break requirements. The obligation stated in the Labor Code to “provide” meal periods only means employers must offer meal periods. Thus, the store manager in this case was required to show that he was forced to forego meal breaks, as opposed to showing merely that he didn’t take them regardless of the reason. Evidence pointed to the fact that the store manager voluntarily skipped his breaks, and the case was dismissed.

We’ll have more details on this decision in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor.

Additional Resources:

More articles on Meal and Rest Breaks

California Labor Code Section 512 (Meal Periods)

Wage Orders