Supreme Court to Rule on Workplace Breaks

Courts will look into how diligent employers must be about breaks.

By Chris Roberts
|  Monday, Nov 7, 2011  |  Updated 3:59 PM PDT
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Supreme Court to Rule on Workplace Breaks

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At issue is how diligent employers must be when providing staw law-mandated rest and meal periods to their employees.

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Do you tell your boss you want to take 15 minutes and risk gettng fired, or plug through your eight-hour shift without stopping?

That's a dilemma many restaurant workers in California face, according to a lawsuit filed with the state Supreme Court, which will consider this week the question of workplace breaks, according to the Contra Costa Times.

At issue is how diligent employers must be when providing staw law-mandated rest and meal periods to their employees, according to the newspaper. Lawyers for Brinker International, which operates a slew of chain restaurants across the state, have argued that it's sufficient to offer the break, and then incumbent on the employee to choose whether -- and when -- to take the break.

The law is vague on that point, and has led to a slew of suits filed against restaurant chains by eager lawyers looking to capitalize on the uncertainty, according to the newspaper.

"It's big to our membership," said Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association. "We hear daily from companies and independent restaurants being sued because of the unclear nature of the law."

That doesn't cut it for some. "The reality is," Brad Seligman, a lawyer for a number of worker rights groups, said in comments to the newspaper, "employers set up a situation where it's virtually impossible (to take meal and rest breaks)."

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the break issue on Tuesday. Right after lunch, that is.

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