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California Supreme Court Dismisses Meal Break Claims


Meal breaks are an important part of an employee’s compensation. Under California law, anyone working a minimum of four hours is entitled to a ten minute rest break; five hours or more earns a thirty minute meal break; and ten hours or more in a single day earns two meal breaks. If the employee cannot or does not take their meal breaks, then the employer is required to pay the employee the equivalent of one hour of the normal pay for each day that they worked without a meal break.

In August of 2004, Adam Hohnbaum on behalf of himself and on behalf of others similarly situated, filed a complaint against Brinker International Inc. The complaint asked for certification of a class which consisted of employees of Brinker International, over the past four years, who had worked for five hours or more without a meal break or paid compensation for said meal break. A subclass was included which consisted of employees who worked four hours or more without a 10 minute rest break. Due to the number of employees Brinker has and the widespread nature of this practice, the defendants believe that the class could potentially consist of thousands of members.

The plaintiffs allege that managers working in restaurants owned by Brinker pressured them to work through their meal breaks by failing to adequately staff the restaurants or by threatening to cut or change their hours.

However, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that employers are not required to enforce that meal break. This decision has come to clarify matters after an onslaught of lawsuits against California employers regarding meal breaks. The case will now go back to the trial court to determine whether the meal break claims can remain part of the class action.

You can view a copy of the Complaint in the Brinker lawsuit by clicking here.

The attorneys at Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience litigating wage and hour cases, including overtime, vacation pay, meal breaks, and tips. The Chicago Overtime Law Center has offices conveniently located in Oak Brook Terrace and Chicago Illinois, and we handle cases throughout the Chicago area. If you live in Illinois and have a wage and hour dispute, contact an Urbana overtime attorney today at 312-869-4095 or online. Our lawyers also handle consumer rights and fraud class-actions.