As every California employer knows, wage and hour class actions in California are never-ending.  One basis for many of these class actions has been employers’ alleged non-compliance with California meal and rest period requirements.  As to meal periods, the two overriding issues have been whether an employer is required to ensure non-exempt employees take their meal period or just offer such an opportunity and whether such meal period must be taken prior to completion of 5 hours of work.   This issue has significant financial ramifications to California employers as California law imposes a penalty of 1 hour of wages for each day an employee misses a meal period and for each day an employee misses a rest period.  The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing these issues in two consolidated cases and is expected to schedule oral argument in the coming months.  Once oral argument before the court occurs and the court hands down its decision within 90 days thereafter as required by California law, we hope there will be some clarity on these issues.

Robert Pattison, Managing Partner of Jackson Lewis’ San Francisco office, has prepared a white paper discussing these issues in detail.  This white paper, which includes a statutory analysis and a discussion of the shifting positions of the State Labor Commissioner, can be accessed at this link. Most importantly, Jackson Lewis suggests that to ensure compliance pending this decision, California employers continue to ensure that no non-exempt employees works more than 5 hours without taking a meal period.