Employers don't have to ensure workers take breaks, court rules

April 12, 2012Article
Los Angeles Times

California employers must make it possible for workers to take scheduled breaks but cannot be held liable if employees decide to work instead of rest, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

“We conclude an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires,” Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar wrote in the unanimous decision, “ but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.”

Lawsuits over breaks for workers have inundated the courts. Tens of thousands of California workers who have sued major employers contend that companies evade state labor law requirements by making it impossible for workers to take scheduled breaks. “The Supreme Court handed down a dose of common sense today by ruling that employers should not and cannot be required to be the ‘meal police,’ ” said employment lawyer Wendy Lane.

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