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Litigation concerning meal periods has been plentiful in California for over ten years, and a new decision from the California Supreme Court is almost certain to assure that the trend continues.
In Donohue v. AMN Services, LLC, the company used an electronic timekeeping system to track the work hours of its non-exempt employees, and the software rounded time entries to the nearest increment of ten minutes. If an employee began a meal period at 11:02 a.m., for example, and clocked back in at 11:26 a.m. (a potentially non-compliant 24-minute meal period), the software would record the time punches as 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., representing a compliant meal period. The plaintiff filed a class action suit alleging that AMN Services denied meal periods to non-exempt employees, improperly rounded time records for meal periods, and failed to pay the one-hour premium for non-compliant meal periods. In its decision, the Supreme Court re-affirmed its ruling in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court that employers are required only to provide non-exempt employees with an opportunity to take meal periods; they are not required to ensure that employees actually stop work and take a meal period. The Court also acknowledged that it has previously approved the rounding of time records in general, provided that the rounding (a) is fair and neutral on its face, and (b) “is used in such a manner that it will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate the employees properly for all time the