Employment Law Legal Topics New Legal Developments

Attention Health Care Employers: Your Blood Pressure Is About to Drop

lunch_139256271The following is a guest blog post by James C. Anderson of Triebsch & Frampton, PC in Turlock, California. Mr. Anderson practices in the areas of labor law, employment law for management, business transactions, and civil litigation. 

Existing law left health care employers in the quagmire of a conflicting statute and wage orders when it came to employees’ meal period waivers on work shifts exceeding 12 hours in a workday. But Governor Brown has signed urgency legislation (SB 327) that clarifies the law and puts wage orders firmly in control.

Existing law, under Lab C §512, requires two meal periods for shifts longer than 12 hours. But the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) Wage Orders 4 and 5 allow special meal period waiver rules for health care industry employees, under which an employee may voluntarily waive one of the two meal periods on shifts exceeding 12 hours. This left health care employers stuck in a quagmire between the conflicting statute and wage order. However, since June 30, 2000, when the IWC allowed the special meal waiver rules to continue in place, employers have relied on the wage orders and allowed employees to complete a shift in 12 ½ rather than 13 hours.

This all seemed fine until February 10, 2015, when a California court of appeal concluded that the IWC exceeded its authority by adopting these special meal period provisions for healthcare employees. Gerard v Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center (2015) 234 CA4th 285. To make matters worse, the decision applied retroactively, potentially exposing health care employers to a plethora of new wage and hour claims brought by employees claiming that previous meal period waivers on shifts over 12 hours had been invalid. The quagmire seemed to harden.

Health care employers realized they had to immediately reanalyze all employees’ work schedules affected by the Gerard decision but were stopped in their tracks three months later when the California Supreme Court granted review of Gerard.

As the health care industry anxiously awaited the supreme court’s decision, Governor Brown jumped in and signed legislation on October 5, 2015, that took effect immediately. Senate Bill 327 amends Lab C §516 and expressly states that the health care employee special meal period waiver provisions in IWC Wage Orders 4 and 5 were valid and enforceable on and after October 1, 2000, and continue to be valid and enforceable.

Once again, employers and employees within the health care industry may rely on the special meal period waiver rules and can now let out a sigh of relief.

For answers to your wage and hour law questions, turn to CEB’s award-winning book California Wage and Hour: Law and Litigation.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Add your comment to the blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s