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Brinkley, not Brinker – Another Meal Break Case

Another appellate court decision was issued today regarding whether an employer is obligated to ensure employees take required meal and rest breaks.  In Brinkley v. Public Storage, Inc. (B20513), the Second Appellate District rejected the employee’s argument that employers must force employees to take meal and rest breaks.  The court adopted the arguments previously set forth by several federal court cases as well as the now-famous Brinker case.  The Supreme Court recently granted review of the Brinker case, which left many employers wondering what they should do.  For now, at least, employers may be able to breath easy once again.

Public Storage took some well-advised steps that helped them defeat the employee’s claims.  The employee handbook specified that employees were required to take rest and meal breaks.  The company held a district meeting wherein it informed employees that they were required to take breaks and reprimanded employees who did not take required breaks.

Employers can still be held liable if they create a work environment that discourages or makes it difficult for employees to take meal or rest breaks.  See, e.g., Cicairosv. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 949.

The court also rejected the employee’s claim that an inadvertent error on the paystub subjected the employer to penalties under Labor Code Section 226.  The employer avoided penalties because (1) the error was inadvertent and corrected when discovered; and (2) the employee did not suffer any injuries.  The court noted that the defendant met its burden of production by filing a declaration stating that the misstatement was inadvertent and, when discoveered, corrected.  The burden then shifted to the employee to produce evidence that the conduct was “knowing or intentional.”

A copy of the Brinkley case can be downloaded here.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
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San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.

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Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.