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State Court Decides California Labor Law Case

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San Francisco, CAIn a case that could have a significant impact on California labor law, the State Supreme Court decided that employers must relieve workers of their duties so they can take breaks for meals, Bloomberg News reported.

According to the news outlet, the California Supreme Court said that workers should be "of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purposes he or she desires."

The court noted that employers are not obligated to make sure that employees do not work on their breaks.

"The court's approach seeks to provide balance in the workplace, allowing employees to take their breaks, while also accounting for scheduling flexibility based on the wishes of the employee and the inherent demands of their job duties," an attorney told the news outlet.

This decision, from an employer's perspective, removes the burden of the meal period penalty payment when a worker voluntarily misses a lunch break. California labor laws require that companies provide hourly workers meal and rest breaks or give them more pay.

The company that was involved in the lawsuit noted that this means that they will provide meal breaks but will not be penalized if servers and cooks choose to work instead of eating.

The case was initially seen as a victory for workers, as their right to take a lunch break was affirmed, but the ruling puts into question the possibility of extra compensation if employees work during their time off.

"The decision unnecessarily muddies the waters on businesses' responsibility to provide meal breaks, which opens the door for worker exploitation," the executive secretary for the California Labor Federation told Bloomberg.

Reuters reported employers are still required to provide "straight pay" to workers if they continue to perform tasks during their lunch breaks, but employees are not going to receive any overtime compensation for laboring for more hours.

The ruling was in response to the often-ruled-upon California meal break laws, which had been the cause of many cases throughout the state in the past several years, specifically Labor Code section 512 and Work Order Number 5, according to the news provider.

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