California Appellate Court Certifies Class Based on Employer’s Practice of Never Paying Premium Wages For Missed Meal Breaks
On Wednesday, the California Court of Appeal (Second District) upheld an order certifying a class of Safeway employees alleging violation of California’s unfair competition law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.) based on the theory that Safeway had a practice of never paying the premium wages required for missed meal breaks outlined in Labor Code § 226.7.
Alleging violations of the unfair completion law in conjunction with violations of the Labor Code is not itself a novel theory, and the Court of Appeal in this case had no trouble concluding “that a UCL claim may be predicated on a practice of not paying premium wages for missed, shortened, or delayed meal breaks attributable to the employer’s instructions or undue pressure, and unaccompanied by a suitable employee waiver or agreement.”
Under such a theory, even technical compliance with the Labor Code and California law with respect to meal breaks (e.g., providing employees with a reasonable opportunity to take full rest breaks, free from all work duties) may not be sufficient to avoid a class claim under the UCL if a plaintiff can sufficiently allege a practice of never paying premium wages when required. Employers are advised to diligently review their practices and policies on a regular basis to ensure full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and adequate protections against potential claims for meal and rest break violations.
The case is Safeway, Inc. v. Superior Court (Esparza), and the full opinion can be found here.
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