California Supreme Court

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California Supreme Court considers meal and rest break class actions

April 13, 2012

On the threshold question of employer’s responsibility in providing breaks, the California Supreme Court ruled that, “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, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.”

On the ultimate question of class certification, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. “While we agree trial courts must resolve any legal or factual issues that are necessary to a determination whether class certification is proper, the Court of Appeal went too far by intimating that a trial court must as a threshold matter always resolve any party disputes over the elements of a claim. In many instances, whether class certification is appropriate or inappropriate may be determined irrespective of which party is correct. In such circumstances, it is not an abuse of discretion to postpone resolution of the disputed issue.”

U.S. Chamber files amicus brief

August 18, 2009

NCLC urged the California Supreme Court to affirm a lower court's denial of class certification for a group of restaurant employees alleging meal period and rest break violations under California law. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that Brinker Restaurant Corp. should have forced its employees to utilize rest periods as provided under California law.

In its brief, NCLC argued that employers do not need to affirmatively ensure that employees actually take their meal and rest breaks, but rather simply make them available; it is the employees' decision whether or not to take advantage of these rest periods. NCLC also argued that, in the absence of company-wide evidence supporting the plaintiffs' claims, the court should not certify a class because employee claims require individualized inquiries. Employers are often pressured into settling large, unmeritorious class actions to avoid expensive litigation; if reversed, this case could encourage future baseless class action claims.

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