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2021 California Supreme Court’s Ruling on Meal and Rest Break Premiums

In July 2021, the California Supreme Court redefined the correct method for calculating rest and meal break premiums due to the Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC decision. Because of this, employers are reevaluating their current wage-and-hour policies on rest, meal, and recovery periods to ensure compliance with the labor code.

Read on to learn what the updates on meal and rest break premiums in the state of California mean for workers in the state.

Meal and Rest Break Premium Violations: What Changed?

In light of the Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC case, the Second Appellate District declared in 2019 that for meal and rest break premiums, employees were to receive compensation equal to their “base hourly pay.” However, on July 15, 2021, the California Court overturned this decision in favor of Jessica Ferra, the plaintiff.

The California Labor Code section 226.7 (b) states that “if an employer fails to provide an employee a meal period or rest period in accordance with an applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest period is not provided.

The Supreme Court decision redefined the meaning of “regular rate of compensation.” On top of the base hourly wage, non-discretionary payments like shift differentials, incentives, and commissions would also be factored into the premium. So, if an hour of time, including non-discretionary pay, amounted to $20, that is what you’ll get for meal and rest break premium violations, even if your base hourly rate is $12.

Rest and Meal Break Guidelines

According to California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), nonexempt employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every 4 hours that they work. However, if they’re only working for 3 ½ hours per shift, the rest period may not be required.

On top of that, workers must also receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every five hours of work. They may choose not to take the said break if they work for no more than 6 hours.

The SC Court reiterated that during these periods, employers must dismiss their employees from their work duties. Should employers fail to grant breaks, the workers are entitled to 1 hour of pay for each day a rest period was not followed or each time a meal-period rule was violated.

Know Your Rights as An Employee

What if your employer refuses to implement the recent policy change? One course of action, if multiple employees are involved, is to file a class-action lawsuit against them. Haffner Law can assist in this regard by providing legal advice and representation. We pursue all legal avenues to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome.

It’s important to note that this decision applies retroactively. This means that these changes would also impact previous practices that have already taken place in a company. Should an employer fail to implement such changes, employees have the right to take the case to court for up to three years from the date of violation.

California’s Trusted Wage and Hour Class Action Attorneys

If you’ve been wronged by your employer, hold them accountable with help from our seasoned wage and hour class action lawyers. At Haffner Law, we provide fair representation and legal counselling services no matter where you are in California. Our 20 years of experience have equipped us with the knowledge and expertise needed to work toward the best possible outcome for your case.

Contact our firm today at 1-844-HAFFNER (423-3637) to schedule a free consultation.

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