California Supreme Court takes up Wage/Hour Meal Break Issue

We previously posted here about an open issue in California regarding the treatment of damages in wage/hour meal break cases under California Law. The issue is whether Section 226.7 of the California Labor Code imposes a penalty on employers that fail to ensure that mandated meal breaks are provided to employees or whether the payments should be treated as wages. (Under California law, employers are required to provide a 30-minute meal break to employees who work more than five hours a day and a second 30-minute meal break to those working more than 10 hours a day.)The distinction is an important one under California law. If the disallowed meal breaks are subject to penalties, the applicable statute of limitations is 1 year. If they are wages, employees may seek back payments for the prior 4 years.

As we predicted, the state's Supreme Court has taken on the issue by granting review in Murpy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, 12/2/05 (1st District). Here is the Petition for Review in the Murphy case.Labor & Employment Law Blog points out that the state's Supreme Court's decision to step in and resolve the conflict between the different courts of appeals is even more important in California than it might be in some other states due to California's precedent rules, which do not require California trial courts to follow the rulings of the Courts of Appeal presiding over their districts.