Supreme Court Finally Renders its Brinker Ruling: Sizzle or Fizzle?


Photo by zoetnet, flickr creative commons

On April 12, 2012, The California Supreme Court finally rendered its long awaited ruling in the Hohnbaum v. Brinker case.  The opinion sought to clarify key issues concerning meal periods and rest breaks for hourly wage workers, and the extent to which lawsuits alleging violations were amenable to class action certification.  However, such clarity may still be lacking because in a way, the Court seemed to rule both ways.  On the key issue of whether meal periods are mandatory or optional, the Court ruled that they are mandatory, but that it was optional for an employee to work during a meal period. Continue reading


Unpaid Internships Are Often Illegal (maybe even usually illegal)

internsMore and more businesses are attempting to have a few of their day to day or seasonal needs addressed through the use of unpaid “interns.”  These “interns” are often caught in the catch 22 of needing experience to land a paid job and needing a job to get experience.  Thus they often willingly, or at least begrudgingly, work for no pay.  Sometimes employers are under the belief that as long as the internship is part of a scholastic program involving certification of the internship, that it is perfectly proper to employ the intern without pay.  Some employers don’t even require a formal internship certification.  The reality is that if the business has unpaid interns for reasons other than altruism or an unselfish loyalty to its industry, chances are the unpaid internship is illegal.   Continue reading

4 Work Place Amenities to Provide to Avoid Lawsuits

Workplace AmenitiesAt the end of 2010, two California court decisions established that employers could be sued for violations of the work place “conditions” set forth in the Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, even when earned wages are not at issue.  There are different Wage Orders for different industries, and it is not always obvious by their names to which industries they apply. For example, the hospitality industry, including food service and preparation staff, come under the “Public Housekkeeping Industry,” Order (Order No. 5-2001).  For this industry, such conditions include those set forth below.  The not well known seating requirement was at issue in the aforementioned lawsuits. Continue reading

Wage Requirements for Meetings or Dismissing Employee Early

Work in Progress sign by Grant Kwok, FlickrThere are minimum pay requirements for employees who come to work for meetings or who are dismissed early from work.  Many employers are either unaware of these requirements or erroneously believe that their payroll service or manager is processing such time correctly.  Its called Reporting Time Pay: (See e.g. IWC Wage Order 5, #5) Continue reading

Still No Date for Brinker Meal Period & Class Action Decision from Cal. Supreme Court

California Supreme Court by Eric Chan, Flickr CCBrinker Restaurant Corp v. Superior Ct (Supreme Ct. # S 166350) is the case you may have heard about which will decide whether meal breaks are mandatory or permissive (i.e. whether an employee must or may take them) and whether meal period claims may be brought as class actions or must be decided on a case by case per employee basis. Continue reading