UPS v. Superior Court: Employers Must Pay Separate Penalties for Meal and Rest Break Violations

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While the wait continues for a California Supreme Court decision in the Brinker case that will establish exactly what constitutes meal and rest break violations, the Second Appellate District has issued an important, pro-worker ruling regarding the Labor Code’s requirement (under § 226.7(b)) that employers compensate employees with an additional hour of pay for meal and rest break violations.  See United Parcel Serv. v. Super. Ct., No. B227190 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 16, 2011) (order denying petition for writ of mandate) (available here).

At issue in Allen v. UPS, pending in L.A. Superior Court’s Complex Division, before Judge Carl J. West, was the defendant’s contention that Section 226.7(b) provides for only one penalty, or “premium,” payment per employee per day, irrespective of the total number of meal and rest break violations.  Thus, by UPS’s conception of the statute, if both meal and rest break violations occur for the same employee, during the same workday, the employer would owe only one extra hour of pay pursuant to Section 226.7(b).  Judge West disagreed, and denied the UPS motion.

UPS filed their writ petition, which Division Eight of the Second Appellate District denied, thereby sustaining Judge West’s ruling.  The extensively-reasoned written decision is expected to have influence beyond the somewhat limited realm in which California intermediate appellate opinions are formally binding.  Foremost, federal courts, which increasingly preside over wage-and-hour class actions concerning questions of California law, are likely to consult and rely on the UPS ruling.  Additionally, the valuation of meal and rest break claims settled in mediations now have a definite reference point, and a non-speculative basis for countering defendants who insist that Section 226.7 payments are limited to one per day, per employee.