An appellate court in California has affirmed legal regulations regarding rest break lengths and other timing standards that affects small business owners and professionals throughout the state. In Rodriguez v. E.M.E. Inc., 2016, the court ruled essentially that rest breaks cannot be combined or merged.
Considering the precedent of the California Supreme Court’s ruling in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court in 2012, the appellate court ruled in the case of Rodriguez: “rest breaks in an eight hour shift should fall on either side of the meal break, absent factors rendering such scheduling impracticable.” As with many issues that broadly affect employers, the court acknowledged that extreme situations would likely represent exceptions to these regulations.
The Rodriguez case represents one of the only challenges to clarify or expand state legal guidelines regarding rest break timing since the precedent case “Brinker” in 2012. Under existing regulations in California, employers must provide rest breaks to employees who work more than 3.5 hours in a given work-day, with some restrictions.
These mandatory rest breaks are built within intervals of ten minutes for every four hours worked or “major fraction” of an hour. The central premise in this case was based on the timing of these breaks and whether they could be combined. The case ultimately ruled that instead of grouping ten minute breaks into twenty-minute breaks for six to eight-hour shifts, they needed to be taken in independent intervals at the same time the work period that instigated the break actually occurs.
Business owners and employers in the state of California should strive to create legally compliant business practices that avoid costly litigation and penalties by creating transparent break time policies and communicating them effectively to both managers and employees.
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