In the first State court decision on the issue, the California Court of Appeal ruled on February 16, 2011 that employees may recover up to two additional hours of “premium” pay for meal period and rest period violations on a single work day.
California Labor Code section 226.7 requires an employer who fails to provide an employee with a meal or rest period to pay that employee one additional hour of pay “for each work day that the meal or rest period is not provided.” In United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Superior Court (Allen), the employer moved the trial court to make a pretrial determination concerning the amount of damages available under section 226.7. UPS argued that only one premium payment is allowable per work day, no matter how many meal or rest periods were not provided. After a full hearing on the motion, the trial court disagreed and concluded that section 226.7 allows up to two premium payments per work day. UPS filed a petition for writ of mandate, which was granted.
Acknowledging that both interpretations of section 226.7 were reasonable and that no California court had previously published a decision on the issue, the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court analyzed the legislative history of section 226.7 and applicable Wage Orders to determine the meaning of the statute. In doing so, the Court held that it was “more reasonable to construe the statute as permitting up to two premium payments per workday – one for failure to provide one or more meal periods, and another for failure to provide one or more rest periods.” The Court further concluded that permitting one premium payment for each type of break violation is “in accordance with and furthers the public policy behind the meal and rest break mandates.”
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