The September 2012 issue of Plaintiff Magazine has an interesting and lengthy article by Oakland attorney Bryan Schwartz, who is a member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar Labor and Employment Law Section. An excerpt:
The article goes on to discuss numerous other issues of interest, including arbitration agreements post-Concepcion. Bryan predicts that "[i]f the Supreme Court takes up Iskanian, it may be the defining case about the effect of Concepcion and Stolt-Nielsen on California laws protecting workers." The Supreme Court granted review in Iskanian last week, so we will see if Bryan's prediction comes to pass.
I remember well April 12, 2012, because it was the day the sun broke through again on wage/hour class litigation: The long-awaited day the California Supreme Court ruled in Brinker (2012) 53 Cal.4th at 1004. Sure, the Court did not hand us strict liability for premiums where workers work during meal or rest breaks. Ironically, the employer-side spin doctors used this one holding, that employers cannot be liable for premiums by simply failing to police workers to ensure every break is taken, to paint Brinker as a great victory for their team. But those of us in the trenches of wage/hour class litigation – on both sides – immediately knew differently: That the chief result of Brinker would be to again empower employee advocates in claims where employers, with policies and common practices, refuse to relinquish all control over meal and rest periods owed to workers.
[The Court's] holding that the “employer need not ensure that no work is done” during meal periods is really an employee victory, because of the reasoning behind it: “[T]he obligation to ensure employees do no work may in some instances be inconsistent with the fundamental employer obligations associated with a meal break: to relieve the employee of all duty and relinquish any employer control over the employee and how he or she spends the time.” (Brinker, 53 Cal.4th at 1038-1039.) In other words, Brinker reasoned that employers cannot police employees to make sure that no work is performed because employers may exercise no control over employees during their meal periods. If an employer has a policy restricting employees’ activities during meal periods, that may now clearly be the basis for a meal period class action.