SANTA ANA, Calif. (Legal Newsline) – Workers hoping to hit their employer with a class action over meal breaks have been dealt an adverse ruling by a California appeals court.
On March 1, the 4th Appellate District of the state of California affirmed summary judgment in a lawsuit over whether the
Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center violated labor code violations when it allowed employees who worked more than 12-hour
shifts to waive their second meal.
A law states that employees who work more than 12-hour
shifts must take two meal breaks. However, the Industrial Welfare Commission says employees who
work in health care are allowed to waive one of the meal breaks if they work
more than eight hours.
The court first decided that the IWC law was unacceptable
and sided with the plaintiffs (Jazmina Gerard, Kristiane McElroy and Jeffery
Carl) stating, “the IWC order is partially invalid to the extent it authorizes
second meal break waivers.”
The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of
the hospital and sent the case back to the district court, which led to this
“Upon reconsideration we conclude the IWC order is valid and
affirm,” the court states.
The re-examination came as one hospital rule lets employees
who work more than 10 hours, including more than 12 hours, waive one of their
meal periods. The plaintiffs said they did “occasionally” work more than 12 hours
and signed the waiver and thus were not given the second meal. But the plaintiffs alleged the hospital was not allowed to even have offered the waiver under the labor code laws.
The hospital offered a defense: “Plaintiffs’ claim for an
alleged failure to provide meal periods fails because defendant utilized valid
meal period waivers,” and moved for summary judgment.
The court acknowledged that it “erred” in its first
ruling for the plaintiffs because it originally concluded that section 11(D) of
Wage Order No. 5, which was adopted on June 30, 2000, and went into effect
Oct. 1, 2000, states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of this order,
employees in the health care industry who work shifts in excess of eight (8)
total hours in a workday may voluntarily waive their right to one of their two
meal periods” did not line up with section 512(a) of the Labor Code.
That law was
adopted in 1999 and went into effect on Jan 1, 2000, and states, “An employer
may not employ an employee for a work period of more than 10 hours per day
without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than 30
minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than 12 hours, the
second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and the
employee only if the first meal period was not waived.”
It also initially said the IWC did not have the authority to
enact 11(D) because it went beyond what was allowed on 512(a).
Still, the court changed its position and states, “However,
in reaching this conclusion we failed to account for a subtle but critical
distinction in administrative law–the date an agency regulation or order is
adopted is not the same as the date it becomes effective.”