Kevin Sullivan, Associate in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Los Angeles office, was quoted in Law360, in “Calif. High Court OKs Meal Break Waiver for Health Workers,” by Mike LaSusa. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Golden State health care workers don’t have to take a second meal break during shifts lasting longer than 12 hours, meaning they can opt to leave work a half hour sooner, the California Supreme Court said Monday.

The decision ends a decade-old case that hinged on whether an order by the state Industrial Welfare Commission, which sets wage and work policies, had contravened state law by allowing health care workers to skip a meal break on long shifts despite strict labor code requirements for specific periodic breaks.

“Considering the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions in light of their history, we agree with the Court of Appeal that the IWC order does not violate the Labor Code,” the high court said.

The decision focused on whether a wage order issued in June 2000 that didn’t take effect until October of that year was undone by a law, passed in the interim that barred wage orders from contradicting elements of the state’s labor code. Employment in California is guided by two sets of rules: statutes passed by the legislature and policies created by the IWC.

Although Monday’s opinion concentrated largely on the timing issue, attorneys told Law360 that the ruling also suggests the high court is open to handing down decisions that allow certain industries some leeway in how they deal with rules surrounding breaks. …

Kevin Sullivan of Epstein Becker Green told Law360 the ruling also acknowledged that the policy of allowing health care workers to skip their second meal breaks was supported by employees as well as employers.

“The court recognized that this was an agreed-upon provision. If you go back and look at the history of it all, the unions and hospitals had gotten together in the ‘90s to come up with an acceptable practice for waiving second meal periods and that was what was ultimately put in the wage order,” Sullivan said.


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