California’s Court of Appeals: Meal Break Waivers Differ From Voluntary Decisions to Skip Breaks

Law Firm Newswire



Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) December 8, 2014 – Waivers are only required if an employer “makes” a worker miss a second meal break, said the California Court of Appeals in Fayerweather v. Comcast Corp.

Comcast service technicians spend their days in the field installing phone, cable and internet service systems in businesses and homes. Company policy stated they were to take breaks, fill out a waiver if they skipped their second meal break and accurately track their working hours. Management had no way of knowing if the technicians took their breaks.

California workers are filing more lawsuits. Many of the employment law actions focus on misclassified employees, missed meal breaks, hours and wage violations, unpaid overtime, off-the-clock work and other worker’s rights violations. 

This particular case confirmed that off-the-clock class actions must provide proof that a company-wide policy violates California labor laws.

The plaintiffs argued that if they did not fill out meal break waivers, it was proof they were denied breaks. They claimed that communication devices used to indicate their working status were a reflection of their hours, not the time sheets they filled out. They admitted they knew they were to sign written waivers every time they opted to skip a second meal break, but that when they did not do so, it was a violation of California Labor Code § 512.

“Despite a creative argument, the court did not agree with the plaintiffs,” said Sacramento employment attorney Deborah Barron. The law does not mandate written waivers, and in this case, management could not possibly determine who was forced to miss a meal break versus who voluntarily decided to miss the break. The case did not qualify for class-action certification.

“Meal break waivers are quite different from workers deciding, for their own reasons, to skip breaks. In order to launch a class action lawsuit, there must be proof of an illegal, uniformly applied company policy,” Barron explained. If a worker decides, on his or her own, to work through a provided meal break, no waiver is required.

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