Thursday, April 12, 2012

Out to Lunch if You "Dare".

 Non Union workers lose the fight for a 30 min lunch break , thanks to a California ruling .
If you work in California, the lunch break you’d always assumed to be a right just became a privilege.And you can thank the California Supreme Court for giving your boss the legal tool to make your workday that much more miserable.Imagine having your lunch at work , and you do the stupid thing and work during your lunch break . I have done that many times in two decades . Now 'State rules private employers no longer required to provide lunch breaks.'This aught to put a smile on the die hard Schwarzenegger Governor types who tried for years to take that right away from the Public  employee's . California liberalism at best failed here to protect the worker. Yet the Blame lays with the worker ,unanimous opinion came after workers' attorneys argued that abuses are routine and widespread when companies aren't required to issue direct orders to take the breaks. They claimed employers take advantage of workers who don't want to leave colleagues during busy times.--------------Well you know the old saying don't pray what you ask for you'll be sorry. It also get's confusing , read on .
The case was initially filed nine years ago against Dallas-based Brinker International, the parent company of Chili's and other eateries, by restaurant workers complaining of missed breaks in violation of California labor law.
But the high court sided with businesses when it ruled that requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable and that those decisions should be left to workers. The decision provided clarity that businesses had sought regarding the law.
The opinion written by Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar explained that state law does not compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods. It stated that while employers are required to free workers of job duties for a 30-minute meal break, the employee is at liberty to use the time as they choose even if it's to work, she wrote
"The employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed," Werdegar wrote.
Tracee Lorens, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said she believed the court's decision still allowed some wiggle room for the case to get class-action certification on the meal break claims. Lorens said she was happy the court did allow a separate claim regarding the plaintiffs' receiving proper rest breaks to proceed as a class-action.
Class-action lawsuits are brought by one or more plaintiffs on behalf of themselves and others facing the same circumstances, and can include thousands of people in some cases.
It was unclear whether the opinion would reduce or increase future class-action lawsuits on the issue because the court did not dismiss the meal break violation claim by workers but instead sent it back to be reargued in trial courts.
Lorens said she will argue to the lower court that Brinker's company meal break policies still violate state wage-and-hour laws, even though the court said employers do not have to police when those breaks are taken.
Roger Thomson, executive vice president and general counsel of Brinker, said he was happy with the court's decision on the key issue of whether employers must ensure workers take their breaks.
"That was the biggest issue to us," Thomson said. "It has been allowed for our team members to work through lunch if they want or take the time off instead, and this ruling allows our team members that flexibility," he said.
Generally, employer-side attorneys were confident that Thursday's ruling would reduce future class-action lawsuits surrounding the meal break issue in California, which has cost companies millions of dollars in legal costs.
Yes, it will also leave millions of employee's without a break for lunch.

The problem with this ruling is that many employers can subtly STOP employees from taking breaks/lunch. If you are unionized, or under the civil service system, you will still get your breaks. But if you work in someplace like a Nursing Home, or you are an English as a second language speaker on a construction site, and you do not know your rights, or even if you do....You can be "dissuaded" or discouraged, or subtly forbidden from taking lunch/rest breaks. Thanks a lot CA Supreme Court--oh well, at least I didn't VOTE for you.

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