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California Court of Appeals holds that on-duty meal breaks must be at least thirty minutes.

The Court of Appeals - First District - has ruled that Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 5 requires that an employer provide employees with meal periods of at least 30 minutes, regardless of whether they are on-duty or off-duty. (See, L’Chaim House, Inc. v. Division of Labor Standards Enforcement - filed July 31, 2019, First District, Div. One Cite as 2019 S.O.S. 3703.) In this appellate matter, L’Chaim House, Inc. and its owner, Cary Kopstein (collectively, L’Chaim) (operators of residential care homes for seniors) were cited for wage and hour violations by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). After an unsuccessful administrative appeal, L’Chaim filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5, which the trial court denied.

On appeal, L’Chaim claims that under the applicable Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage order, it may require its employees to work “on-duty” meal periods that, unlike periods when employees are “relieved of all duty,” do not need to be at least 30 minutes long. (IWC wage order No. 5-2001 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11050) (hereafter Wage Order No. 5), subd. (11)(A), (E).) The Court of Appeals disagreed with L'Chaim and held: L’Chaim (the employer) must provide meal periods of at least 30 minutes, regardless of whether they are on-duty or off-duty, under Wage Order No. 5 and the applicable statutory law.

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