Employment Law Blog

Filter:  Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act and Class Action Suits in California

There are many public policy considerations that favor the use of class actions in the employment context in California.  First, individual awards in employment cases tend to be modest so the availability of a class action claim plays an important function by permitting employees a relatively inexpensive way to resolve their disputes. Additionally, class actions allow many employees, who may not otherwise file an individual suit due to fear of retaliation, to safely have their day in court as a member of the class. Class actions also serve to inform and protect employees who, for one reason or another, may not otherwise become aware that their rights are even being violated.

Meal and rest break claims are specifically suited to class treatment. See Brinker Rest. Corp., 53 Cal.4th at 1033 (certifying a California class with meal and rest break claims).

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Meal and Rest Breaks for “On Call” Health Care Employees

As the California Supreme Court has noted, an employer meets the requirements of the applicable Wage Order’s meal period requirement if the employee (1) has at least 30 minutes uninterrupted, (2) is free to leave the premises, and (3) is relieved of all duty for the entire period. Id. at 1036.

However, in the health care industry, as discussed in a Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (“DLSE”) Opinion Letter approved by the Brinker Court, an employer may require an employee to remain on its premises, “so long as the worker is relieved of all duties during the meal period.” Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 1996.07.12 (July 12, 1996) p. 1 (“1996 Opinion Letter”). In that Opinion Letter, the DLSE discussed whether an employee that is required to carry a pager during a purported meal period must be compensated. The DLSE determined that: “[s]o long as the employee who is simply required to wear the pager is not called upon during the meal period to respond, there is no requirement that the meal period be paid for. On the other hand, if the employee responds, as required to a pager call during the meal period, the whole of the meal period must be compensated.”

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