Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Super. Ct. of San Diego CtyAnnotate this Case
This case stemmed from the DLSE's investigation into whether Brinker was complying with its obligations to provide rest and meal breaks to its employees, maintain proper records, and pay premium wages in the event required breaks were not provided. The court considered on appeal issues of significance to class actions generally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. The court concluded that the trial courts were not obligated as a matter of law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff's claims, unless a particular determination was necessarily dispositive of the certification question. Because the parties have so requested, however, the court nevertheless addressed several threshold disputes. In regards to the nature of an employer's duty to provide meal periods, the court concluded that an employer's obligation was to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desired, but the employer need not ensure that no work was done. Further, in light of the substantial evidence submitted by plaintiffs of defendants' uniform policy, the court concluded that the trial court properly certified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclass certification, the court remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. With respect to the third contested subclass, covering allegations that employees were required to work "off-the-clock," no evidence of common policies or means of proof was supplied, and the trial court therefore erred in certifying a subclass.