Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 273 P.3d 513, 139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 315

Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Super. Ct.



Filed 4/12/12



IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA



BRINKER RESTAURANT

CORPORATION et al.,

Petitioners,

S166350

v.

Ct.App. 4/1 D049331

THE SUPERIOR COURT OF

SAN DIEGO COUNTY,

San Diego County

Super. Ct. No. GIC834348

Respondent;

ADAM HOHNBAUM et al.,

Real Parties in Interest.



For the better part of a century, California law has guaranteed to employees

wage and hour protection, including meal and rest periods intended to ameliorate

the consequences of long hours. For most of that time, only injunctive remedies

were available for violations of meal and rest period guarantees. In 2000,

however, both the Legislature and the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC)

adopted for the first time monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks.

(Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1094, 1105-1106.)

These remedies engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation,

including the instant suit in which the trial court granted class certification and the

Court of Appeal then issued writ relief and ordered three subclasses decertified.

1




We granted review to consider issues of significance to class actions

generally and to meal and rest break class actions in particular. We conclude,

contrary to the Court of Appeal, that trial courts are not obligated as a matter of

law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff‟s claims, unless a

particular determination is necessarily dispositive of the certification question.

Because the parties have so requested, however, we nevertheless address several

such threshold disputes here. On the most contentious of these, the nature of an

employer‟s duty to provide meal periods, we conclude an employer‟s obligation is

to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use

the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not

ensure that no work is done.

On the ultimate question of class certification, we review the trial court‟s

ruling for abuse of discretion. In light of the substantial evidence submitted by

plaintiffs of defendants‟ uniform policy, we conclude the trial court properly

certified a rest break subclass. On the question of meal break subclass

certification, we remand 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. Accordingly,

because the Court of Appeal rejected certification of all three subclasses, we will

affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendants Brinker Restaurant Corporation, Brinker International, Inc., and

Brinker International Payroll Company, L.P. (collectively Brinker), own and

operate restaurants throughout California, including Chili‟s Grill & Bar and

Maggiano‟s Little Italy. Brinker previously has owned and operated additional

chains in California, including Romano‟s Macaroni Grill, Corner Bakery Cafe,

2



Cozymel‟s Mexican Grill, and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina. Name

plaintiffs Adam Hohnbaum, Illya Haase, Romeo Osorio, Amanda June Rader, and

Santana Alvarado (collectively Hohnbaum) are or were hourly nonexempt

employees at one or more of Brinker‟s restaurants.

State law obligates employers to afford their nonexempt employees meal

periods and rest periods during the workday. (See Lab. Code, §§ 226.7, 512; IWC

wage order No. 5-2001 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11050); hereafter Wage Order

No. 5.)1 Labor Code section 226.7, subdivision (a)2 prohibits an employer from

requiring an employee “to work during any meal or rest period mandated by an

applicable order of the Industrial Welfare Commission.” In turn, Wage Order

No. 5, subdivision 12 prescribes rest periods, while subdivision 11, as well as

section 512 of the Labor Code, prescribes meal periods. Employers who violate

these requirements must pay premium wages. (§ 226.7, subd. (b); Wage Order

No. 5, subds. 11(B), 12(B); see Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., supra,

40 Cal.4th at p. 1114.)

In 2002, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) launched an

investigation into whether Brinker was complying with its obligations to provide

rest and meal breaks, maintain proper records, and pay premium wages in the

event required breaks were not provided. The DLSE filed suit and eventually

settled in exchange for Brinker‟s payment of $10 million to redress injuries


1

The IWC issues wage orders on an industry-by-industry basis. (Martinez v.

Combs (2010) 49 Cal.4th 35, 57.) Wage Order No. 5 governs restaurant
employees, inter alia, while other wage orders impose similar meal and rest period
requirements for all other nonexempt employees in California. (See generally Cal.
Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 11010-11170.)

2

All further statutory references are to the Labor Code unless otherwise

specified.

3



suffered by employees between 1999 and 2001 and the stipulation to a court-

ordered injunction to ensure compliance with meal and rest break laws. In

connection with the settlement, Brinker disclaimed all liability.

In the aftermath of the DLSE‟s suit, Hohnbaum filed this putative class

action, seeking to represent the cooks, stewards, buspersons, wait staff, host staff,

and other hourly employees who staff Brinker‟s restaurants. The operative

complaint, the first amended complaint, alleges in its first cause of action that

Brinker failed to provide employees the rest breaks, or premium wages in lieu of

rest breaks, due them under law. (See § 226.7; Wage Order No. 5, subd. 12.) The

second cause of action alleges Brinker failed to provide employees the meal

breaks, or premium wages in lieu of meal breaks, required by law. (See §§ 226.7,

512; Wage Order No. 5, subd. 11.) In the course of litigation, two distinct theories

underlying the meal break claim have emerged: (1) Brinker provided employees

fewer meal periods than required by section 512 and Wage Order No. 5; and

(2) Brinker sometimes required “early lunching,” a single meal period soon after

the beginning of a work shift followed by six, seven, eight, or more hours without

an additional meal period. Finally, Hohnbaum contends Brinker required

employees to work off-the-clock during meal periods and engaged in time

shaving, unlawfully altering employee time records to misreport the amount of

time worked and break time taken.3


3

This claim is not expressly set forth in the complaint, but the trial court

approved a stipulated amendment deeming the complaint to include allegations
that employees worked off the clock during meal periods and Brinker engaged in
time shaving.

4



In aid of a court-ordered mediation, the parties stipulated to the trial court‟s

resolving the legal issue central to the early lunching theory: whether state law

imposes timing requirements on when a meal period must be provided and, if so,

what it requires. Hohnbaum contended governing law obligates an employer to

provide a 30-minute meal period at least once every five hours. Brinker countered

that no such timing obligation is imposed, and an employer satisfies its meal

period obligations by providing one meal period for shifts over five hours and two

meal periods for shifts over 10 hours.

The trial court generally agreed with Hohnbaum, holding that an

employer‟s obligations are not satisfied simply by affording a meal period for each

work shift longer than five hours, and that affording a meal period during the first

hour of a 10-hour shift, with nothing during the remaining nine hours, would

violate the obligation to provide a meal period for each five-hour work period.

This advisory opinion subsequently was confirmed as a court order. Brinker filed

a writ petition in the Court of Appeal, which was denied.

Hohnbaum then moved for class certification, defining the class as “[a]ll

present and former employees of [Brinker] who worked at a Brinker owned

restaurant in California, holding a non-exempt position, from and after August 16,

2000.”4 The class definition included several subclasses, three of which are

pertinent here: (1) a “ „Rest Period Subclass‟ ” comprising all “Class Members

who worked one or more work periods in excess of three and a half (3.5) hours

without receiving a paid 10 minute break during which the Class Member was

relieved of all duties, from and after October 1, 2000”; (2) a “ „Meal Period


4

The putative class is estimated to include just under 60,000 Brinker

employees.

5



Subclass‟ ” covering all “Class Members who worked one or more work periods

in excess of five (5) consecutive hours, without receiving a thirty (30) minute meal

period during which the Class Member was relieved of all duties, from and after

October 1, 2000”; and (3) an “ „Off-The-Clock‟ Subclass” for all “Class Members

who worked „off-the-clock‟ or without pay from and after August 16, 2000.”

Hohnbaum argued class certification was warranted because, inter alia,

common legal and factual issues predominated. He contended Brinker applied

common meal and rest break policies to all nonexempt employees, the legality of

these common policies was most appropriately decided on a classwide basis, and

computer shift records maintained by Brinker could be used to identify violations

and establish classwide liability. Hohnbaum supported the motion with numerous

declarations from proposed class members asserting that Brinker had failed to

provide individuals with meal and rest breaks or provided breaks at allegedly

improper times during the course of an employee‟s work shift. He also submitted

survey evidence of ongoing meal and rest break violations even after settlement

with the DLSE.

Brinker opposed class certification, arguing that individual issues

predominated. Specifically, Brinker argued that a rest break subclass should not

be certified because an employer‟s obligation is simply to permit such breaks to be

taken, as Brinker did, and whether employees in fact chose to take such breaks is

an individualized inquiry not amenable to class treatment. Brinker contended a

meal period subclass should not be certified because an employer is obliged only

to make meal breaks available and need not ensure that employees take such

breaks. Brinker asserted it had complied with its legal obligation to make meal

breaks available, many employees took those breaks, and inquiry into why

particular employees did not take meal breaks raised individual questions

precluding class treatment. Brinker also contended plaintiffs‟ early lunching

6



claims were legally unfounded and, in any event, individual issues again

predominated, rendering the meal period claims unsuitable for litigation on a class

basis. Finally, Brinker argued the off-the-clock subclass should not be certified

because no Brinker policy permitted such alteration of time records, Brinker did

not suffer or permit off-the-clock work, and any such off-the-clock work would

require individualized employee-by-employee proof. Brinker submitted hundreds

of declarations in support of its opposition to class certification.

Following a full hearing, the trial court granted class certification, finding

that common issues predominated over individual issues: “[C]ommon questions

regarding the meal and rest period breaks are sufficiently pervasive to permit

adjudication in this one class action. [¶] [Brinker‟s] arguments regarding the

necessity of making employees take meal and rest periods actually point[] toward

a common legal issue of what [Brinker] must do to comply with the Labor Code.

Although a determination that [Brinker] need not force employees to take breaks

may require some individualized discovery, the common alleged issues of meal

and rest violations predominate.” A class proceeding was also superior:

“Adjudicating plaintiffs‟ allegations in one litigation” would be “much more

efficient” than resolving it in 60,000 separate administrative or judicial

proceedings, as Brinker had suggested.

The Court of Appeal granted writ relief and reversed class certification as

to the three disputed subclasses. We granted review to resolve uncertainties in the

handling of wage and hour class certification motions.

DISCUSSION

I. Class Certification Principles

Originally creatures of equity, class actions have been statutorily embraced

by the Legislature whenever “the question [in a case] is one of a common or

general interest, of many persons, or when the parties are numerous, and it is

7



impracticable to bring them all before the court . . . .” (Code Civ. Proc., § 382; see

Fireside Bank v. Superior Court (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1069, 1078; City of San Jose v.

Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 447, 458.) Drawing on the language of Code of

Civil Procedure section 382 and federal precedent, we have articulated clear

requirements for the certification of a class. The party advocating class treatment

must demonstrate the existence of an ascertainable and sufficiently numerous

class, a well-defined community of interest, and substantial benefits from

certification that render proceeding as a class superior to the alternatives. (Code

Civ. Proc., § 382; Fireside Bank, at p. 1089; Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co. (2000) 23

Cal.4th 429, 435; City of San Jose, at p. 459.) “In turn, the „community of interest

requirement embodies three factors: (1) predominant common questions of law or

fact; (2) class representatives with claims or defenses typical of the class; and

(3) class representatives who can adequately represent the class.‟ ” (Fireside

Bank, at p. 1089, quoting Richmond v. Dart Industries, Inc. (1981) 29 Cal.3d 462,

470.)

Here, only a single element of class suitability, and a single aspect of the

trial court‟s certification decision, is in dispute: whether individual questions or

questions of common or general interest predominate. The “ultimate question” the

element of predominance presents is whether “the issues which may be jointly

tried, when compared with those requiring separate adjudication, are so numerous

or substantial that the maintenance of a class action would be advantageous to the

judicial process and to the litigants.” (Collins v. Rocha (1972) 7 Cal.3d 232, 238;

accord, Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal.4th 319, 326.)

The answer hinges on “whether the theory of recovery advanced by the proponents

of certification is, as an analytical matter, likely to prove amenable to class

treatment.” (Sav-On, at p. 327.) A court must examine the allegations of the

complaint and supporting declarations (ibid.) and consider whether the legal and

8



factual issues they present are such that their resolution in a single class

proceeding would be both desirable and feasible.5 “As a general rule if the

defendant‟s liability can be determined by facts common to all members of the

class, a class will be certified even if the members must individually prove their

damages.” (Hicks v. Kaufman & Broad Home Corp. (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 908,

916; accord, Knapp v. AT&T Wireless Services, Inc. (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 932,

941.)

On review of a class certification order, an appellate court‟s inquiry is

narrowly circumscribed. “The decision to certify a class rests squarely within the

discretion of the trial court, and we afford that decision great deference on appeal,

reversing only for a manifest abuse of discretion: „Because trial courts are ideally

situated to evaluate the efficiencies and practicalities of permitting group action,

they are afforded great discretion in granting or denying certification.‟ [Citation.]

A certification order generally will not be disturbed unless (1) it is unsupported by

substantial evidence, (2) it rests on improper criteria, or (3) it rests on erroneous

legal assumptions. [Citations.]” (Fireside Bank v. Superior Court, supra, 40

Cal.4th at p. 1089; see also Hamwi v. Citinational-Buckeye Inv. Co. (1977) 72

Cal.App.3d 462, 472 [“So long as [the trial] court applies proper criteria and its

action is founded on a rational basis, its ruling must be upheld.”].) Predominance

is a factual question; accordingly, the trial court‟s finding that common issues

predominate generally is reviewed for substantial evidence. (Sav-On Drug Stores,


5

As one commentator has put it, “what really matters to class certification”

is “not similarity at some unspecified level of generality but, rather, dissimilarity
that has the capacity to undercut the prospects for joint resolution of class
members‟ claims through a unified proceeding.” (Nagareda, Class Certification in
the Age of Aggregate Proof
(2009) 84 N.Y.U. L.Rev. 97, 131.)

9



Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at pp. 328-329.) We must “[p]resum[e]

in favor of the certification order . . . the existence of every fact the trial court

could reasonably deduce from the record . . . .” (Id. at p. 329.)

The appellate judgment reversing certification rests on two separate

grounds. First, the Court of Appeal held the trial court committed error per se by

ruling on certification without first resolving legal disputes over the scope of

Brinker‟s duties to provide meal and rest periods. Second, it held that any court,

upon resolving those disputes, could only have concluded certification was

inappropriate. We consider the first of these grounds in part II., post, and the

second of them in parts IV. through VI., post. As we shall explain, the first

ground does not support the judgment, while the second supports it only partially.

II. Class Certification and Disputes over a Claim’s Elements

The trial court concluded it could certify a class without resolving disputes

over the scope of Brinker‟s duty to provide breaks because common questions

would predominate even if Brinker‟s legal positions were correct. According to

the Court of Appeal, this was error: the trial court “was required to determine the

elements of plaintiffs‟ claims” because the court “could not determine whether

individual or common issues predominate in this case, and thus whether a class

action was proper, without first determining this threshold issue.” While we agree

trial courts must resolve any legal or factual issues that are necessary to a

determination whether class certification is proper, the Court of Appeal went too

far by intimating that a trial court must as a threshold matter always resolve any

party disputes over the elements of a claim. In many instances, whether class

certification is appropriate or inappropriate may be determined irrespective of

which party is correct. In such circumstances, it is not an abuse of discretion to

postpone resolution of the disputed issue.

10



“The certification question is „essentially a procedural one that does not ask

whether an action is legally or factually meritorious.‟ ” (Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc.

v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 326, quoting Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co.,

supra, 23 Cal.4th at pp. 439-440; see also Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin (1974)
417 U.S. 156, 178 [“ „In determining the propriety of a class action, the question is

not whether the plaintiff or plaintiffs have stated a cause of action or will prevail

on the merits, but rather whether the requirements of [class certification] are

met.‟ ”].) A class certification motion is not a license for a free-floating inquiry

into the validity of the complaint‟s allegations; rather, resolution of disputes over

the merits of a case generally must be postponed until after class certification has

been decided (Fireside Bank v. Superior Court, supra, 40 Cal.4th at pp. 1083-

1086), with the court assuming for purposes of the certification motion that any

claims have merit (Linder, at p. 443).

We have recognized, however, that “issues affecting the merits of a case

may be enmeshed with class action requirements . . . .” (Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co.,

supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 443; see also Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (2011) 564

U.S. ___, ___ [131 S.Ct. 2541, 2551] [analysis of a class certification‟s propriety

“[f]requently . . . will entail some overlap with the merits of the plaintiff‟s

underlying claim. That cannot be helped.”]; Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay (1978)
437 U.S. 463, 469, fn. 12 [“ „Evaluation of many of the questions entering into

determination of class action questions is intimately involved with the merits of

the claims.‟ ”].) When evidence or legal issues germane to the certification

question bear as well on aspects of the merits, a court may properly evaluate them.

(Wal-Mart Stores, 131 S.Ct. at pp. 2551-2552 & fn. 6; Ghazaryan v. Diva

Limousine, Ltd. (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 1524, 1531; Caro v. Proctor & Gamble

Co. (1993) 18 Cal.App.4th 644, 656.) The rule is that a court may “consider[]

how various claims and defenses relate and may affect the course of the litigation”

11



even though such “considerations . . . may overlap the case‟s merits.” (Fireside

Bank v. Superior Court, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1092; see Szabo v. Bridgeport

Machines, Inc. (7th Cir. 2001) 249 F.3d 672, 676 [if the considerations necessary

to certification “overlap the merits . . . then the judge must make a preliminary

inquiry into the merits”].)

In particular, whether common or individual questions predominate will

often depend upon resolution of issues closely tied to the merits. (Coopers &

Lybrand v. Livesay, supra, 437 U.S. at p. 469, fn. 12; Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co.,

supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 443.) To assess predominance, a court “must examine the

issues framed by the pleadings and the law applicable to the causes of action

alleged.” (Hicks v. Kaufman & Broad Home Corp., supra, 89 Cal.App.4th at

p. 916.) It must determine whether the elements necessary to establish liability are

susceptible of common proof or, if not, whether there are ways to manage

effectively proof of any elements that may require individualized evidence. (See

Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 334.) In turn,

whether an element may be established collectively or only individually, plaintiff

by plaintiff, can turn on the precise nature of the element and require resolution of

disputed legal or factual issues affecting the merits. For example, whether reliance

or a breach of duty can be demonstrated collectively or poses insuperable

problems of individualized proof may be determinable only after closer inspection

of the nature of the reliance required or duty owed and, in some instances,

resolution of legal or factual disputes going directly to the merits. (See, e.g., Erica

P. John Fund, Inc. v. Halliburton Co. (2011) 563 U.S. ___, ___ [131 S.Ct. 2179,

2184-2186]; Bartold v. Glendale Federal Bank (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 816, 829-

831.)

Such inquiries are closely circumscribed. As the Seventh Circuit has

correctly explained, any “peek” a court takes into the merits at the certification

12



stage must “be limited to those aspects of the merits that affect the decisions

essential” to class certification. (Schleicher v. Wendt (7th Cir. 2010) 618 F.3d

679, 685.) While the Schleicher defendants urged that the trial court had erred by

failing to resolve disputes over the falsity and materiality of their statements, the

Seventh Circuit affirmed class certification without inquiry into such matters,

concluding no element of the certification determination hinged on their

resolution. (Ibid.) Likewise, in Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc. (2010) 181

Cal.App.4th 1286, 1303-1305, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court‟s

refusal to certify a wage and hour class without deciding contested legal issues

concerning the defendant‟s meal break policy because common questions

predominated in any event. (See also Medrazo v. Honda of North Hollywood

(2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 89, 97-98 [trial court erred in resolving the merits of an

affirmative defense divorced from consideration of the specific criteria for class

certification].)

We summarize the governing principles. Presented with a class

certification motion, a trial court must examine the plaintiff‟s theory of recovery,

assess the nature of the legal and factual disputes likely to be presented, and

decide whether individual or common issues predominate. To the extent the

propriety of certification depends upon disputed threshold legal or factual

questions, a court may, and indeed must, resolve them. Out of respect for the

problems arising from one-way intervention, however, a court generally should

eschew resolution of such issues unless necessary. (See Fireside Bank v. Superior

Court, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1074; Schleicher v. Wendt, supra, 618 F.3d at

p. 685.) Consequently, a trial court does not abuse its discretion if it certifies (or

denies certification of) a class without deciding one or more issues affecting the

13



nature of a given element if resolution of such issues would not affect the ultimate

certification decision.6

In support of its conclusion that a trial court must always first decide upon

the applicable law and resolve legal issues surrounding each element of a proposed

class claim, the Court of Appeal relied principally on our decision in Washington

Mutual Bank v. Superior Court (2001) 24 Cal.4th 906. We disagree with the

Court of Appeal‟s reading of our decision. In Washington Mutual, the plaintiffs

sought certification of a nationwide class. Although members of the plaintiff class

were subject to choice-of-law agreements, the trial court granted certification

without first determining whether the agreements were enforceable and would

result in the application of different state laws, and whether any applicable state

laws varied in ways that would render the class proceeding unmanageable. We

reversed, explaining that it was not possible to intelligently assess predominance

and the manageability of claims asserted on behalf of nonresidents without those

determinations. (Washington Mutual, at pp. 915, 922, 927-928.) Washington

Mutual involves an unexceptional application of the principles we have

articulated: if the presence of an element necessary to certification, such as

predominance, cannot be determined without resolving a particular legal issue, the

trial court must resolve that issue at the certification stage. That the failure to


6

See also, e.g., In re Initial Public Offering Securities Lit. (2d Cir. 2006) 471

F.3d 24, 41 (endorsing similar principles under Fed. Rules Civ.Proc., rule 23, 28
U.S.C.); Gariety v. Grant Thornton, LLP (4th Cir. 2004) 368 F.3d 356, 365-367
(same); Nagareda, Class Certification in the Age of Aggregate Proof, supra, 84
N.Y.U. L.Rev. at page 114 (under federal law, a “court must inquire into the
merits . . . if that inquiry pertains to the satisfaction of a [Fed. Rules Civ.Proc.,]
Rule 23 requirement,” but “oversteps its proper bounds if it conducts” a “free-
floating merits inquiry . . . untethered to a Rule 23 requirement.”).

14



resolve disputed legal issues affecting the elements of a claim is always reversible

error does not follow.

III. Wage Orders and the Labor Code

We turn to the Court of Appeal‟s alternate basis for reversing class

certification—that if one considers the substance of the parties‟ various legal

disputes and the elements of Hohnbaum‟s claims, one must conclude as a matter

of law that common questions do not predominate. In assessing that conclusion, at

the parties‟ request we examine the merits of their substantive legal disputes. (See

Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co., supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 443 [“[W]e see nothing to prevent

a court from considering the legal sufficiency of claims when ruling on

certification where both sides jointly request such action.”].) Because those

disputes derive in part from conflicting visions of the respective roles statutes and

wage orders play in establishing the state‟s wage and hour law, we begin by

examining those roles.

Nearly a century ago, the Legislature responded to the problem of

inadequate wages and poor working conditions by establishing the IWC and

delegating to it the authority to investigate various industries and promulgate wage

orders fixing for each industry minimum wages, maximum hours of work, and

conditions of labor. (Martinez v. Combs, supra, 49 Cal.4th at pp. 52-55; see Cal.

Const., art. XIV, § 1 [confirming the Legislature‟s authority to establish a

commission and grant it legislative and other powers over such matters].)

Pursuant to its “broad statutory authority” (Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior

Court (1980) 27 Cal.3d 690, 701), the IWC in 1916 began issuing industry- and

occupationwide wage orders specifying minimum requirements with respect to

wages, hours, and working conditions (id. at p. 700). In addition, the Legislature

has from time to time enacted statutes to regulate wages, hours, and working

conditions directly. Consequently, wage and hour claims are today governed by

15



two complementary and occasionally overlapping sources of authority: the

provisions of the Labor Code, enacted by the Legislature, and a series of 18 wage

orders, adopted by the IWC. (Reynolds v. Bement (2005) 36 Cal.4th 1075, 1084;

see IWC wage order Nos. 1-2001 to 17-2001 and MW-2007 (Cal. Code Regs.,

tit. 8, §§ 11000-11170).)

We apply the usual rules of statutory interpretation to the Labor Code,

beginning with and focusing on the text as the best indicator of legislative purpose.

(Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1103.) “[I]n

light of the remedial nature of the legislative enactments authorizing the regulation

of wages, hours and working conditions for the protection and benefit of

employees, the statutory provisions are to be liberally construed with an eye to

promoting such protection.” (Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, supra,

27 Cal.3d at p. 702; see also Murphy, at p. 1103 [given the Legislature‟s remedial

purpose, “statutes governing conditions of employment are to be construed

broadly in favor of protecting employees.”].)

In turn, the IWC‟s wage orders are entitled to “extraordinary deference,

both in upholding their validity and in enforcing their specific terms.” (Martinez

v. Combs, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 61.) When a wage order‟s validity and

application are conceded and the question is only one of interpretation, the usual

rules of statutory interpretation apply. (Collins v. Overnite Transportation Co.

(2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 171, 178-179; see Cal. Drive-in Restaurant Assn. v. Clark

(1943) 22 Cal.2d 287, 292.) As with the Labor Code provisions at issue, the meal

and rest period requirements we must construe “have long been viewed as part of

the remedial worker protection framework.” (Murphy v. Kenneth Cole

Productions, Inc., supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1105.) Accordingly, the relevant wage

order provisions must be interpreted in the manner that best effectuates that

protective intent. (Martinez, at pp. 61-62; see Industrial Welfare Com. v. Superior

16



Court, supra, 27 Cal.3d at p. 724; Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw (1995) 32

Cal.App.4th 968, 974.)

The IWC‟s wage orders are to be accorded the same dignity as statutes.

They are “presumptively valid” legislative regulations of the employment

relationship (Martinez v. Combs, supra, 49 Cal.4th at p. 65), regulations that must

be given “independent effect” separate and apart from any statutory enactments

(id. at p. 68). To the extent a wage order and a statute overlap, we will seek to

harmonize them, as we would with any two statutes. (Cal. Drive-in Restaurant

Assn. v. Clark, supra, 22 Cal.2d at pp. 292-293.)

Here, Wage Order No. 5, governing the public housekeeping industry,

applies.7 We consider in turn both the scope of the duties it and several related

statutes (see §§ 226.7, 512, 516) impose on restaurant employers to afford rest and

meal periods, and whether in light of those duties the Court of Appeal erred in

reversing as an abuse of discretion the trial court‟s certification of three

subclasses.8

IV. Rest Period Class Certification

A. The Scope of an Employer’s Duty to Provide Rest Periods

Preliminary to its assessment of the trial court‟s certification of a rest period

subclass, the Court of Appeal addressed two threshold legal questions: the amount


7

By its terms, Wage Order No. 5 expressly covers restaurant employees such

as Hohnbaum and the proposed class members. (See Wage Order No. 5,
subd. 2(P)(1).)

8

We observe that because the IWC‟s funding was restricted in 2004 (see

Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1102, fn. 4), the
agency has been rendered essentially unavailable in recent years to cast light on
the intended significance of its wage orders.

17



of rest time that must be authorized, and the timing of any rest periods. We

consider these same two questions.

1. The rate at which rest time must be authorized and permitted

Brinker‟s rest period duties are defined solely by Wage Order No. 5,

subdivision 12. To determine the rate at which rest time must be authorized, we

begin, as always, with the text. (See Reynolds v. Bement, supra, 36 Cal.4th at

p. 1086 [“The best indicator of [the IWC‟s] intent is the language of the [wage

order] provision itself.”].) Subdivision 12(A) provides in relevant part: “Every

employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which

insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period. The authorized

rest period time shall be based on the total hours worked daily at the rate of ten

(10) minutes net rest time per four (4) hours or major fraction thereof. However, a

rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily work time is

less than three and one-half (3½) hours.”

The text of the wage order is dispositive; it defines clearly how much rest

time must be authorized. Under Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 12(A)‟s second

sentence, employees receive 10 minutes for each four hours of work “or major

fraction thereof.” Though not defined in the wage order, a “major fraction” long

has been understood—legally, mathematically, and linguistically—to mean a

fraction greater than one-half.9 The term “majority fraction” was first introduced


9

See, e.g., Department of Commerce v. Montana (1992) 503 U.S. 442, 450-

451; Hovet v. Myers (Or. 1971) 489 P.2d 684, 685-686; 7 C.F.R. § 1205.322(b)(1)
(2012); Balinski and Young, The Quota Method of Apportionment, 82 American
Mathematical Monthly 701, 704 (Aug.-Sept. 1975); Oxford English Dictionary
Online (3d ed. 2000; online version Mar. 2012) <http://oed.com/view/Entry/
112621> (as of Apr. 12, 2012) (“major” is that which “constitutes the majority or
larger part; usually with part, portion, or other similar nouns”).

18



in 1947 and then amended to “major fraction” in 1952;10 the contemporaneous

historical evidence suggests the IWC in the 1940‟s understood the term in just

such a sense. (See, e.g., IWC meeting minutes (June 14, 1943) p. 22 [interpreting

“ „any fraction of fifteen minutes‟ ” to mean “the majority fraction thereof, or

eight minutes or more”]). The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)

has so interpreted the phrase as well, construing “major fraction thereof” as

applied to a four-hour period to mean any amount of time in excess of two

hours—i.e., any fraction greater than half. (Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE

Opinion Letter No. 1999.02.16 (Feb. 16, 1999) p. 1.)11

It follows that Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 12(A)‟s second sentence

defines the rest time that must be permitted as the number of hours worked divided

by four, rounded down if the fractional part is half or less than half and up if it is

more (a “major fraction”), times 10 minutes. Thus, under the initial calculation

called for by this part of the wage order, an employee would receive no rest break

time for shifts of two hours or less, 10 minutes for shifts lasting more than two

hours up to six hours, 20 minutes for shifts lasting more than six hours up to 10

hours, and so on.


10

IWC wage order No. 5 R, subdivision 11 (June 1, 1947); IWC wage order

No. 5-52, subdivision 12 (Aug. 1, 1952).

11

“The DLSE „is the state agency empowered to enforce California‟s labor

laws, including IWC wage orders.‟ ” (Morillion v. Royal Packing Co. (2000) 22
Cal.4th 575, 581.) The DLSE‟s opinion letters, “ „ “ „while not controlling upon
the courts by reason of their authority, do constitute a body of experience and
informed judgment to which courts and litigants may properly resort for
guidance.‟ ” ‟ ” (Seymore v. Metson Marine, Inc. (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 361,
369, fn. 5; see Morillion, at p. 584 [relying on DLSE opinion letters to inform its
interpretation of the IWC‟s wage orders].)

19



Though under the basic calculation the right to 10 minutes‟ rest would

accrue for any shift lasting more than two hours, the third sentence of Wage Order

No. 5‟s rest period subdivision modifies this entitlement slightly. Under the third

sentence, “a rest period need not be authorized for employees whose total daily

work time is less than three and one-half (3½) hours.” (Wage Order No. 5,

subd. 12(A).) Thus, employees working shifts lasting over two hours but under

three and one-half hours, who otherwise would have been entitled to 10 minutes‟

rest, need not be permitted a rest period. The combined effect of the two pertinent

sentences, giving full effect to each, is this: Employees are entitled to 10 minutes‟

rest for shifts from three and one-half to six hours in length, 20 minutes for shifts

of more than six hours up to 10 hours, 30 minutes for shifts of more than 10 hours

up to 14 hours, and so on.

The Court of Appeal, however, construed the third sentence of the

subdivision as supplying the definition of “major fraction thereof,” reasoning that

otherwise the three and one-half hour proviso and the preceding language would

be irreconcilable. In its view, employees are entitled to 10 minutes‟ rest for shifts

of three and one-half hours or more, to 20 minutes‟ rest for shifts of seven and

one-half hours or more, and so on. An employee working a seven-hour shift thus

would be entitled to only 10 minutes‟ rest.

This reading cannot be reconciled with either the wage order‟s text or its

adoption history. First, the express language of the three and one-half hour

proviso speaks only to the circumstance where an employee‟s “total daily work

time is less than three and one-half (3½) hours” (Wage Order No. 5, subd. 12(A),

italics added); it does not speak to the circumstance where an employee‟s total

daily work time is less than seven and one-half hours, or less than 11½ hours.

“[M]ajor fraction” can be applied to, and must be defined for, each four-hour

period, not just the first four hours of an employee‟s shift: How much time must

20



be worked to earn a second 10 minutes, or a third? What does it mean to work

four hours plus a “major fraction” of another four hours? The three and one-half

hour proviso cannot answer those questions.

Second, the Court of Appeal‟s interpretation disregards the use of the word

“However” at the beginning of the three and one-half hour proviso, which signals

that what follows is a deviation from or exception to the previous rule, not an

amplification of it. Though the Court of Appeal perceived an inconsistency, there

is nothing inconsistent in reading the three and one-half hour proviso as a specific

exception to the general rule that working for a “major fraction” of four hours is

sufficient to entitle one to rest time: to earn the first 10 minutes, one must be

scheduled for a work shift of at least three and one-half hours, while to earn the

next 10 minutes, one must be scheduled to work four hours plus a major fraction,

to earn the next, eight hours plus a major fraction, and so on.

The IWC‟s explanatory remarks at the time the three and one-half hour

proviso was adopted reveal the proviso was intended as just such a limited

exception: “ „The rest period provision was clarified to indicate that an employee

working less than 3½ hours for the entire day would not need to have a rest

period.‟ ” (IWC meeting minutes (May 16, 1952) p. 34.) The three and one-half

hour proviso thus was not inserted as a definition of the phrase “major fraction,”

but simply as a limit on the shift length that would warrant any break at all.

Finally, the Court of Appeal attached great significance to a different 1952

change, the substitution in the wage order of “major” for “majority,” but the two

terms are essentially synonymous when used as modifiers, and the change appears

to have been the product of an idiomatic choice, rather than an intended semantic

distinction. (See also IWC wage order No. 5-57, subd. 15(a) (Nov. 15, 1957)

[amending toilet requirements to mandate “one toilet for every twenty-five (25)

21



female employees or major fraction thereof” in lieu of “. . . majority fraction

thereof” with no evident change in meaning].)

Having resolved the amount of rest time an employer must authorize and

permit, we turn to the question of when it must be afforded.

2. Rest period timing

Hohnbaum asserts employers have a legal duty to permit their employees a

rest period before any meal period. Construing the plain language of the operative

wage order, we find no such requirement and agree with the Court of Appeal,

which likewise rejected this contention.

Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 12(A) provides in relevant part: “Every

employer shall authorize and permit all employees to take rest periods, which

insofar as practicable shall be in the middle of each work period.” Neither this

part of the wage order nor subdivision 11, governing meal periods, speaks to the

sequence of meal and rest breaks. The only constraint on timing is that rest breaks

must fall in the middle of work periods “insofar as practicable.” Employers are

thus subject to a duty to make a good faith effort to authorize and permit rest

breaks in the middle of each work period, but may deviate from that preferred

course where practical considerations render it infeasible. At the certification

stage, we have no occasion to decide, and express no opinion on, what

considerations might be legally sufficient to justify such a departure.

The difficulty with Hohnbaum‟s argument that we should read into the

wage order an absolute obligation to permit a rest period before a meal period can

be illustrated by considering the case of an employee working a six-hour shift.

Such an employee is entitled (in the absence of mutual waiver) to a meal period

(Wage Order No. 5, subd. 11(A)) and, as discussed above, to a single rest period.

Either the rest period must fall before the meal period or it must fall after. Neither

22



text nor logic dictates an order for these, nor does anything in the policies

underlying the wage and hour laws12 compel the conclusion that a rest break at the

two-hour mark and a meal break at the four-hour mark of such a shift is lawful,

while the reverse, a meal break at the two-hour mark and a rest break at the four-

hour mark, is per se illegal.

Hohnbaum seeks to overcome the lack of textual support for his position by

offering a DLSE opinion letter interpreting the identical language in a different

wage order. (Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 2001.09.17

(Sept. 17, 2001) [interpreting IWC wage order No. 16-2001 (Cal. Code Regs.,

tit. 8, § 11160)].) Responding to a hypothetical about an employer who affords

employees a meal break at the five-hour mark of an eight-hour shift, the DLSE

opined that “absent truly unusual circumstances,” placing both rest breaks before

the meal break, and none after, would not comport with the wage order

requirement that rest breaks “ „insofar as practicable, shall be in the middle of each

work period.‟ ” (Opinion Letter No. 2001.09.17, at p. 4.) We have no reason to

disagree with the DLSE‟s view regarding the scenario it considered, but that view

does not establish universally the proposition that an employee‟s first rest break

must always come sometime before his or her first meal break. Rather, in the

context of an eight-hour shift, “[a]s a general matter,” one rest break should fall on

either side of the meal break. (Ibid.) Shorter or longer shifts and other factors that

render such scheduling impracticable may alter this general rule.


12

See generally Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., supra, 40 Cal.4th

at page 1113 (discussing the health and safety considerations behind meal and rest
periods).

23



B. Certification of a Rest Period Subclass

In granting class certification, the trial court accepted without modification

the proposed class and subclass definitions. The rest period subclass covers

“Class Members who worked one or more work periods in excess of three and a

half (3.5) hours without receiving a paid 10 minute break during which the Class

Member was relieved of all duties, from and after October 1, 2000 („Rest Period

Subclass‟).”

That the trial court did not apply improper criteria, i.e., decide certification

on a basis other than whether superiority of the class action mechanism,

commonality of issues, and other relevant factors had been shown, is undisputed.

(See Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 332;

Walsh v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1440, 1451.) Nor,

as we have discussed, was the trial court obligated as a matter of law to resolve all

legal disputes concerning the elements of Hohnbaum‟s rest break claims before

certifying a class. (Ante, pt. II.) Hence, the only remaining question is whether

the court abused its discretion in concluding that common questions predominate.

We conclude it did not.

The issue for the trial court was whether any of the rest break theories of

recovery advanced by Hohnbaum were “likely to prove amenable to class

treatment.” (Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at

p. 327.) The complaint alleges Brinker failed “to provide rest periods for every

four hours or major fraction thereof worked per day to non-exempt employees.”

Though Hohnbaum briefs multiple theories of liability, to conclude class

certification was not an abuse of discretion we need consider only one: the theory

that Brinker adopted a uniform corporate rest break policy that violates Wage

Order No. 5 because it fails to give full effect to the “major fraction” language of

subdivision 12(A).

24



Hohnbaum presented evidence of, and indeed Brinker conceded at the class

certification hearing the existence of, a common, uniform rest break policy. The

rest break policy was established at Brinker‟s corporate headquarters; it is equally

applicable to all Brinker employees. Under the written policy, employees receive

one 10-minute rest break per four hours worked: “If I work over 3.5 hours during

my shift, I understand that I am eligible for one ten minute rest break for each four

hours that I work.”13 Classwide liability could be established through common

proof if Hohnbaum were able to demonstrate that, for example, Brinker under this

uniform policy refused to authorize and permit a second rest break for employees

working shifts longer than six, but shorter than eight, hours. Claims alleging that a

uniform policy consistently applied to a group of employees is in violation of the

wage and hour laws are of the sort routinely, and properly, found suitable for class

treatment. (See, e.g., Jaimez v. Daiohs USA, Inc., supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at

pp. 1299-1305; Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd., supra, 169 Cal.App.4th at

pp. 1533-1538; Bufil v. Dollar Financial Group, Inc. (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th

1193, 1205-1208.)

In reversing class certification, the Court of Appeal concluded that because

rest breaks can be waived—as all parties agree—“any showing on a class basis

that plaintiffs or other members of the proposed class missed rest breaks or took

shortened rest breaks would not necessarily establish, without further

individualized proof, that Brinker violated” the Labor Code and Wage Order

No. 5. This was error. An employer is required to authorize and permit the

amount of rest break time called for under the wage order for its industry. If it


13

Other evidence the trial court was entitled to credit suggested employees

may not have been permitted even that much rest break time.

25



does not—if, for example, it adopts a uniform policy authorizing and permitting

only one rest break for employees working a seven-hour shift when two are

required—it has violated the wage order and is liable. No issue of waiver ever

arises for a rest break that was required by law but never authorized; if a break is

not authorized, an employee has no opportunity to decline to take it. As

Hohnbaum pleaded and presented substantial evidence of a uniform rest break

policy authorizing breaks only for each full four hours worked, the trial court‟s

certification of a rest break subclass should not have been disturbed.

We observe in closing that, contrary to the Court of Appeal‟s conclusion,

the certifiability of a rest break subclass in this case is not dependent upon

resolution of threshold legal disputes over the scope of the employer‟s rest break

duties. The theory of liability—that Brinker has a uniform policy, and that that

policy, measured against wage order requirements, allegedly violates the law—is

by its nature a common question eminently suited for class treatment. As noted,

we have at the parties‟ request addressed the merits of their threshold substantive

disputes. However, in the general case to prematurely resolve such disputes,

conclude a uniform policy complies with the law, and thereafter reject class

certification—as the Court of Appeal did—places defendants in jeopardy of

multiple class actions, with one after another dismissed until one trial court

concludes there is some basis for liability and in that case approves class

certification. (See Fireside Bank v. Superior Court, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 1078.)

It is far better from a fairness perspective to determine class certification

independent of threshold questions disposing of the merits, and thus permit

defendants who prevail on those merits, equally with those who lose on the merits,

to obtain the preclusive benefits of such victories against an entire class and not

just a named plaintiff. (Id. at p. 1083.)

26



V. Meal Period Class Certification

As with the rest break subclass, the Court of Appeal addressed two

threshold legal issues before assessing whether certification of a subclass was

proper: (1) the nature of an employer‟s duty to provide employees with meal

periods; and (2) the timing requirements applicable to the provision of meal

periods. We likewise begin with these issues.

A. The Scope of the Employer Duty to Provide Meal Periods

1. The nature of the duty

We consider what it means for an employer to provide a nonexempt

employee a meal period. Hohnbaum contends an employer is obligated to “ensure

that work stops for the required thirty minutes.” Brinker, in a position adopted by

the Court of Appeal, contends an employer is obligated only to “make available”

meal periods, with no responsibility for whether they are taken. We conclude that

under Wage Order No. 5 and Labor Code section 512, subdivision (a), an

employer must relieve the employee of all duty for the designated period, but need

not ensure that the employee does no work.

Historically, an employer‟s meal period obligations were governed solely

by the language of the IWC‟s wage orders, and so we begin there. Under Wage

Order No. 5, subdivision 11(A), “[n]o employer shall employ any person for a

work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30

minutes” absent a mutual waiver in certain limited circumstances. The wage order

employs no verb between “without” and “a meal period” (e.g., providing,

requiring, offering, allowing, granting) to specify the nature of the employer‟s

duty. Rather, the order identifies only the condition triggering the employer‟s duty

(employment of any person for at least five hours) and the employee‟s

concomitant entitlement (a meal period of at least 30 minutes).

27



In the absence of a verb, the key language giving content to the employer‟s

duty comes from the wage order‟s further definition of what an employee is to

receive. Under Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 11(A), “[u]nless the employee is

relieved of all duty during a 30 minute meal period, the meal period shall be

considered an „on duty‟ meal period and counted as time worked. An „on duty‟

meal period shall be permitted only when the nature of the work prevents an

employee from being relieved of all duty and when by written agreement between

the parties an on-the-job paid meal period is agreed to. The written agreement

shall state that the employee may, in writing, revoke the agreement at any time.”

Parsed, the order‟s text spells out the nature of “on duty” meal periods and

the precise circumstances in which they are permitted. It follows that absent such

circumstances, an employer is obligated to provide an “off duty” meal period. The

attributes of such off duty meal periods are evident from the nature of their

reciprocal, on duty meal periods. An on duty meal period is one in which an

employee is not “relieved of all duty” for the entire 30-minute period. (Wage

Order No. 5, subd. 11(A).) An off duty meal period, therefore, is one in which the

employee “is relieved of all duty during [the] 30 minute meal period.” (Ibid.,

italics added.) Absent circumstances permitting an on duty meal period, an

employer‟s obligation is to provide an off duty meal period: an uninterrupted 30-

minute period during which the employee is relieved of all duty.

The IWC‟s wage orders have long made a meal period‟s duty-free nature its

defining characteristic. The 1943 version of the wage order governing restaurant

employees first introduced the principle: “No employer shall employ any woman

or minor for a work period of more than five (5) hours without an allowance of not

less than thirty (30) minutes for a meal. If during such meal period the employee

can not be relieved of all duties and permitted to leave the premises, such meal

period shall not be deducted from hours worked.” (IWC wage order No. 5 NS,

28



subd. 3(d) (June 28, 1943).) The 1947 wage order retained the duty-free concept,

but more clearly specified the circumstances under which an employer would be

excused from relieving an employee: “An „on duty‟ meal period will be permitted

only when the nature of the work prevents an employee from being relieved of all

duty, and such „on duty‟ meal period shall be counted as hours worked without

deduction from wages.” (IWC wage order No. 5 R, subd. 10 (June 1, 1947).) In

1963, the operative language was amended almost to its current form (IWC wage

order No. 5-63, subd. 11(a) (Aug. 30, 1963)), save for the requirement that on duty

meals be agreed to in writing, which was added in 1976 (IWC wage order No. 5-

76, subd. 11(A) (Oct. 18, 1976)).14

As the IWC explained plainly in 1979: “A „duty free‟ meal period is

necessary for the welfare of employees. The section is sufficiently flexible to

allow for situations where that is not possible,” i.e., by establishing conditions for

an on duty meal period. “The Commission received no compelling evidence and

concluded that there was no rationale to warrant any change in this section, the

basic provisions of which date back more than 30 years.” (IWC statement as to

the basis for wage order No. 5-80 (Sept. 7, 1979); accord, IWC statement as to the

basis for wage order No. 5-89 (Sept. 7, 1989); IWC statement of findings in

support of 1976 wage order revisions (Aug. 13, 1976) p. 14.)

The DLSE‟s contemporaneous opinion letters reflect the same

understanding. In 1988, the DLSE noted it “has historically taken the position that


14

We declared IWC wage order No. 5-76 invalid for failure to include an

adequate statement of the basis (see California Hotel & Motel Assn. v. Industrial
Welfare Com.
(1979) 25 Cal.3d 200, 216; § 1177, subd. (b)), but the IWC
thereafter cured the omission and reissued identical meal period language (see
IWC statement as to the basis for wage order No. 5-80 (Sept. 7, 1979); IWC wage
order No. 5-80, subd. (11)(A) (Jan. 1, 1980)).

29



unless employees are relieved of all duties and are free to leave the premises, the

meal period is considered as „hours worked.‟ ” (Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE

Opinion Letter No. 1988.01.05 (Jan. 5, 1988) p. 1.) Three years later, in response

to a question concerning employees working in the field free of direct supervision

and control, it advised that if “the employee has a reasonable opportunity to take

the full thirty-minute period free of any duty, the employer has satisfied his or her

obligation. The worker must be free to attend to any personal business he or she

may choose during the unpaid meal period.” (Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE

Opinion Letter No. 1991.06.03 (June 3, 1991) p. 1.)15 As these opinion letters

make clear, and as the DLSE argues in its amicus curiae brief, the wage order‟s

meal period requirement is satisfied if the employee (1) has at least 30 minutes

uninterrupted, (2) is free to leave the premises, and (3) is relieved of all duty for

the entire period. (DLSE Opinion Letter No. 1988.01.05, supra, at p. 1; Dept.

Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 1996.07.12 (July 12, 1996) p. 1.)

We agree with this DLSE interpretation of the wage order.

It was against this background that in 1999 the Legislature first regulated

meal periods, previously the exclusive province of the IWC. New section 512

made meal periods a statutory as well as a wage order obligation: an employer

must “provid[e] the employee with a meal period of not less than 30 minutes” for

workdays lasting more than five hours, and provide two meal periods for


15

See also Bono Enterprises, Inc. v. Bradshaw, supra, 32 Cal.App.4th at page

975 (emphasizing absence of duty and freedom from employer control as central
to unpaid meal periods); Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 2(K) (defining “ „Hours
worked‟ ” as including all time when subject to employer control).

30



workdays in excess of 10 hours, subject to waiver in certain circumstances.

(Former § 512, enacted by Stats. 1999, ch. 134, § 6, p. 1823.)16

The duty to provide meal periods is not further defined by section 512, but

the nature of the duty is evident from surrounding indicia of legislative intent. As

discussed, when the Legislature entered the field of meal break regulation in 1999,

it entered an area where the IWC and DLSE had, over more than half a century,

developed a settled sense of employers‟ meal break obligations. In such

circumstances, we begin with the assumption the Legislature did not intend to

upset existing rules, absent a clear expression of contrary intent. (Industrial

Welfare Com. v. Superior Court, supra, 27 Cal.3d at p. 734; see also Cal. Drive-in

Restaurant Assn. v. Clark, supra, 22 Cal.2d at p. 292 [statutes should be construed

insofar as possible to avoid implied repeal of wage orders].) Section 512‟s

mandate that employers “provid[e]” 30-minute meal breaks can be read as

shorthand for the requirement contemplated in subdivision 11 of most of the

IWC‟s wage orders: Employers must afford employees uninterrupted half-hour

periods in which they are relieved of any duty or employer control and are free to

come and go as they please.

Examination of the relevant legislative history confirms this reading. The

origins of section 512 trace to the late 1990‟s, when the IWC amended five wage

orders to abolish daily overtime, limiting overtime compensation to hours worked

in excess of 40 per week, rather than hours worked in excess of eight per day, as

had previously been the case. (See Johnson v. Arvin-Edison Water Storage Dist.


16

As enacted in 1999, the text of section 512 consisted of what is now section

512, subdivision (a). (Stats. 1999, ch. 134, § 6, p. 1823.) The original text was
recodified without change in 2000 when a new subdivision was added. (Stats.
2000, ch. 492, § 1, p. 3500.)

31



(2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 729, 735.) Troubled by this weakening of employee

protections, the Legislature enacted the Eight-Hour-Day Restoration and

Workplace Flexibility Act of 1999 (Stats. 1999, ch. 134, enacting Assem. Bill No.

60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.)), which restored daily overtime, nullified IWC-

approved alternative workweek schedules, and directed the IWC to re-adopt

conforming wage orders. (Sen. Rules Com., Off. of Sen. Floor Analyses, 3d

reading analysis of Assem. Bill No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as amended July 1,

1999, pp. 2-5; see also Stats. 1999, ch. 134, § 2, p. 1820; Assem. Floor

Concurrence in Sen. Amends. to Assem. Bill No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as

amended July 1, 1999, p. 6.)

As part of its response to the IWC‟s rollback of employee protections, the

Legislature wrote into statute various guarantees that previously had been left to

the IWC, including meal break guarantees. (§ 512, subd. (a).) The declared intent

in enacting section 512 was not to revise existing meal period rules but to codify

them in part. (See, e.g., Assem. Com. on Appropriations, Analysis of Assem. Bill

No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as amended Mar. 22, 1999, p. 3; Legis. Counsel‟s

Dig., Assem. Bill No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) 5 Stats. 1999, Summary Dig.,

p. 62.) It follows that the duty the Legislature intended to impose was the duty as

it had existed under the IWC‟s wage orders. Thus, under what is now section 512,

subdivision (a), as under Wage Order No. 5, an employer‟s obligation when

providing a meal period is to relieve its employee of all duty for an uninterrupted

30-minute period.

Hohnbaum contends that an employer has one additional obligation: to

ensure that employees do no work during meal periods. He places principal

reliance on a series of DLSE opinion letters. In 2001, in the course of discussing

rest breaks, the DLSE distinguished an employer‟s meal break duties and observed

that for meal breaks “an employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure that

32



workers are actually relieved of all duty, not performing any work, and free to

leave the worksite . . . .” (Dept. of Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No.

2001.09.17, supra, p. 4, italics added.) In 2002, the DLSE reiterated the point:

with regard to meal periods, “an employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure

that workers are actually relieved of all duty, not performing any work, and . . .

free to leave the employer‟s premises.” (Dept. of Industrial Relations, DLSE

Opinion Letter No. 2002.01.28 (Jan. 28, 2002) p. 1, italics added; see also Dept. of

Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 2002.09.04 (Sept. 4, 2002) p. 2

[“[A]s a general rule the required meal period must be an off-duty meal period,

during which time the employee . . . is not suffered or permitted to work . . .”].)

We are not persuaded. The difficulty with the view that an employer must

ensure no work is done—i.e., prohibit work—is that it lacks any textual basis in

the wage order or statute. While at one time the IWC‟s wage orders contained

language clearly imposing on employers a duty to prevent their employees from

working during meal periods,17 we have found no order in the last half-century

continuing that obligation. Indeed, the obligation to ensure employees do no work

may in some instances be inconsistent with the fundamental employer obligations

associated with a meal break: to relieve the employee of all duty and relinquish

any employer control over the employee and how he or she spends the time. (See


17

See, e.g., IWC wage order No. 2, subdivision 1(20) (Apr. 14, 1916) (“no

woman or minor shall be permitted to return to work in less than one-half hour”);
IWC wage order No. 3a, subdivision 12 (June 4, 1928) (same); IWC wage order
No. 18, subdivision 10 (Feb. 26, 1932) (same); id., subdivision 11, footnote * (“It
is recommended that . . . without exception where [lunch room] space is provided,
all women and minors shall be required during the meal period to leave and
remain out of the room in which they are regularly employed.”); IWC wage order
No. 9 Amended, subdivision 9(a) (Aug. 28, 1933) (“The employer is responsible
for seeing that [the meal period] time is taken.”).

33



Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., supra, 22 Cal.4th at pp. 584-585 [explaining that

voluntary work may occur while not subject to an employer‟s control, and its

cessation may require the reassertion of employer control].)

For support, Hohnbaum focuses on the phrase “No employer shall employ

any person [without the specified meal period]” (Wage Order No. 5, subd.

(11)(A)), contending that “employ” includes permitting or suffering one to work,

and so the employer is forbidden from permitting an employee to work during a

meal break. Although Hohnbaum is entirely correct about the broad meaning the

wage order gives the term “employ” (see Wage Order No. 5, subd. 2(E)

[“ „Employ‟ means to engage, suffer, or permit to work.‟ ”]),18 his argument

misconstrues the role that broad definition plays in the structure of subdivision

11(A). The provision identifies both an employer obligation (relieving employees

of all duty for 30 minutes) and a condition precedent or trigger for that obligation.

“No employer shall employ” is part of the definition of the trigger, not of the

obligation. If an employer engages, suffers, or permits anyone to work for a full

five hours, its meal break obligation is triggered. “Employ” relates to what must

transpire during the five-hour work period; it does not relate to what must

transpire next.


18

Wage Order No. 5‟s definition of “employ” was first inserted in 1943.

(IWC wage order No. 5 NS, subd. 2(c) (June 28, 1943).) At the time, the IWC
explained that “in order to overcome the possibility of subterfuge being resorted to
by unscrupulous employers under which subterfuge such employers claim that
they did not hire the employee, it becomes necessary to find that „employment‟
means „suffering or permitting‟ a woman or minor to perform services . . . .”
(IWC meeting minutes (Apr. 14, 1943) p. 4.) The adopted definition was
consistent with how the IWC had used the term from its earliest wage orders
forward. (See Martinez v. Combs, supra, 49 Cal.4th at pp. 57-58.)

34



What must transpire after the meal break obligation is triggered is covered

by later parts of the subdivision relating to waiver, on duty meal periods (and by

negative implication off duty meal periods), and premium pay. When someone is

suffered or permitted to work—i.e., employed—for five hours, an employer is put

to a choice: it must (1) afford an off duty meal period; (2) consent to a mutually

agreed-upon waiver if one hour or less will end the shift; or (3) obtain written

agreement to an on duty meal period if circumstances permit. Failure to do one of

these will render the employer liable for premium pay. (§ 226.7, subd. (b); Wage

Order No. 5, subd. 11(A), (B).) As earlier discussed, because the defining

characteristic of on duty meal periods is failing to relieve an employee of duty, not

simply “suffering or permitting” work to continue, it follows that off duty meal

periods are similarly defined by actually relieving an employee of all duty: doing

so transforms what follows into an off duty meal period, whether or not work

continues.19


19

If work does continue, the employer will not be liable for premium pay. At

most, it will be liable for straight pay, and then only when it “knew or reasonably
should have known that the worker was working through the authorized meal
period.” (Dept. Industrial Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 1991.06.03, supra,
p. 1; see Morillion v. Royal Packing Co., supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 585.) The DLSE
correctly explains the distinction in its amicus curiae brief: “The employer that
refuses to relinquish control over employees during an owed meal period violates
the duty to provide the meal period and owes compensation [and premium pay] for
hours worked. The employer that relinquishes control but nonetheless knows or
has reason to know that the employee is performing work during the meal period,
has not violated its meal period obligations [and owes no premium pay], but
nonetheless owes regular compensation to its employees for time worked.” (See
also Wage Order No. 5, subd. 2(K) [defining “ „[h]ours worked,‟ ” for which
compensation is owed, to include “all the time the employee is suffered or
permitted to work, whether or not required to do so”].)

35



Proof an employer had knowledge of employees working through meal

periods will not alone subject the employer to liability for premium pay;

employees cannot manipulate the flexibility granted them by employers to use

their breaks as they see fit to generate such liability. On the other hand, an

employer may not undermine a formal policy of providing meal breaks by

pressuring employees to perform their duties in ways that omit breaks. (Cicairos

v. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 949, 962-963; see also Jaimez v.

Daiohs USA, Inc., supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1304-1305 [proof of common

scheduling policy that made taking breaks extremely difficult would show

violation]; Dilts v. Penske Logistics, LLC (S.D.Cal. 2010) 267 F.R.D. 625, 638

[indicating informal anti-meal-break policy “enforced through „ridicule‟ or

„reprimand‟ ” would be illegal].) The wage orders and governing statute do not

countenance an employer‟s exerting coercion against the taking of, creating

incentives to forego, or otherwise encouraging the skipping of legally protected

breaks.

To summarize: An employer‟s duty with respect to meal breaks under both

section 512, subdivision (a) and Wage Order No. 5 is an obligation to provide a

meal period to its employees. The employer satisfies this obligation if it relieves

its employees of all duty, relinquishes control over their activities and permits

them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, and does

not impede or discourage them from doing so. What will suffice may vary from

industry to industry, and we cannot in the context of this class certification

proceeding delineate the full range of approaches that in each instance might be

sufficient to satisfy the law.

On the other hand, the employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and

ensure no work thereafter is performed. Bona fide relief from duty and the

relinquishing of control satisfies the employer‟s obligations, and work by a

36



relieved employee during a meal break does not thereby place the employer in

violation of its obligations and create liability for premium pay under Wage Order

No. 5, subdivision 11(B) and Labor Code section 226.7, subdivision (b).

2. Meal period timing

We turn to the question of timing. To determine whether the IWC or the

Legislature intended to regulate meal period timing, we consider the language and

history of both Labor Code section 512 and Wage Order No. 5. We conclude that,

absent waiver, section 512 requires a first meal period no later than the end of an

employee‟s fifth hour of work, and a second meal period no later than the end of

an employee‟s 10th hour of work. We conclude further that, contrary to

Hohnbaum‟s argument, Wage Order No. 5 does not impose additional timing

requirements.

We begin with the text of section 512, subdivision (a). On the subject of

first meal periods, it provides: “An employer may not employ an employee for a

work period of more than five hours per day without providing the employee with

a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total work period per

day of the employee is no more than six hours, the meal period may be waived by

mutual consent of both the employer and employee.” This provision could be

interpreted as requiring employers either to provide a meal break after no more

than five hours of work in a day, absent waiver, or simply to provide a meal break

at any point in scheduled shifts that exceed five hours.

The first interpretation is the correct one: the statute requires a first meal

period no later than the start of an employee‟s sixth hour of work. Section 512,

subdivision (b) resolves the ambiguity. It provides: “Notwithstanding subdivision

(a), the Industrial Welfare Commission may adopt a working condition order

permitting a meal period to commence after six hours of work if the commission

37



determines that the order is consistent with the health and welfare of the affected

employees.” The provision employs the language of timing: the IWC may adopt

a rule “permitting a meal period to commence after six hours,” i.e., as late as six

hours into a shift. (Ibid., italics added.) By beginning with “Notwithstanding

subdivision (a),” the provision further indicates that any such timing rule would

otherwise contravene subdivision (a). Only if subdivision (a) was intended to

ensure that a first meal period would commence sooner than six hours, after no

more than five hours of work, would this be true. (See Assem. Republican

Caucus, analysis of Sen. Bill No. 88 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as amended Aug. 10,

2000, p. 1 [prior to the addition of § 512, subd. (b), noting that “[e]xisting law

requires that the meal period begin no later than 5 hours after work begins”].)

Accordingly, first meal periods must start after no more than five hours.20

We turn to the matter of second meal periods. Section 512, subdivision (a)

provides in its second sentence: “An employer may not employ an employee for a

work period of more than 10 hours per day without providing the employee with a

second meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that if the total hours

worked is no more than 12 hours, the second meal period may be waived by

mutual consent of the employer and the employee only if the first meal period was

not waived.” As with the first sentence of subdivision (a), this language is

susceptible of two readings: it could be interpreted as requiring employers to

provide a second meal break after no more than 10 hours of work in a day, absent


20

The IWC has permitted first meal periods after six hours of work for all

employees under Wage Order No. 12 and those under Wage Order No. 1 who
collectively bargain for such a variance. (IWC wage order No. 12-2001 (Jan. 1,
2001); IWC wage order No. 1-2001, as amended July 1, 2002; Cal. Code Regs.,
tit. 8, §§ 11120, subd. 11(A), 11010, subd. 11(A)). It has made no similar
allowance in the wage order applicable here, Wage Order No. 5.

38



waiver, or as simply requiring employers to provide at least two separate breaks at

any point in scheduled shifts that exceed 10 hours. Significantly, however, the

language is parallel to subdivision (a)‟s first sentence. Hence, if the first sentence

was intended to ensure a first meal period no more than five hours into a shift, as

subdivision (b) reveals it was, it follows that the second, parallel, sentence should

be read to require a second meal period after no more than 10 hours of work in a

day, i.e., no later than what would be the start of the 11th hour of work, absent

waiver.

Hohnbaum contends section 512 should be read as requiring as well a

second meal period no later than five hours after the end of a first meal period if a

shift is to continue. The text does not permit such a reading. It requires a second

meal after no more than 10 hours of work; it does not add the caveat “or less, if the

first meal period occurs earlier than the end of five hours of work.” Because the

statutory text is conclusive, we need not consider extrinsic sources on this point.

(Beal Bank, SSB v. Arter & Hadden, LLP (2007) 42 Cal.4th 503, 507-508.)

The further issue is whether Wage Order No. 5 imposes any additional

requirement. We agree with Brinker that it does not.

The IWC has long been understood to have the power to adopt

requirements beyond those codified in statute. (Industrial Welfare Com. v.

Superior Court, supra, 27 Cal.3d at p. 733; Cal. Drive-in Restaurant Assn. v.

Clark, supra, 22 Cal.2d at pp. 292-294; see also ante, at p. 17.) Section 516

creates an exception; it bars the use of this power to diminish section 512‟s

protections: “Except as provided in Section 512, the Industrial Welfare

Commission may adopt or amend working condition orders with respect to break

periods, meal periods, and days of rest for any workers in California consistent

with the health and welfare of those workers.” (Italics added). While the

Legislature in section 516 generally preserved the IWC‟s authority to regulate

39



break periods, it intended to prohibit the IWC from amending its wage orders in

ways that “conflict[] with [the] 30-minute meal period requirements” in section

512. (Legis. Counsel‟s Dig., Sen. Bill No. 88 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) 6 Stats.

2000, Summary Dig., p. 212; see Bearden v. U.S. Borax, Inc. (2006) 138

Cal.App.4th 429, 438.) In the absence of a conflict, however, the IWC may still

augment the statutory framework with additional protections on matters not

covered by section 512; that is, the Legislature did not intend to occupy the field

of meal period regulation. (See, e.g., Assem. Com. on Labor & Employment,

3d reading analysis of Sen. Bill No. 88 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as amended

Aug. 10, 2000, p. 4 [authorizing the IWC to regulate so long as the orders it adopts

are “consistent” with § 512]; § 226.7 [imposing premium wages for violations of

the IWC‟s meal period provisions, rather than § 512].)

The text of Wage Order No. 5 is ambiguous. Subdivision 11(A) provides

in relevant part: “No employer shall employ any person for a work period of more

than five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than 30 minutes, except that

when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day‟s work

the meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer and employee.”

This language may be read to mirror our interpretation of section 512: employees

are due a first meal period after no more than five hours of work, a second meal

period after no more than 10 hours, and so on. Alternatively, it may be read more

restrictively, as allowing an employer to schedule no more than five hours of work

between a first meal period and either another meal period or the end of the shift.

Thus, for example, an employee given a meal period after three hours of work

would become entitled after eight hours of work either to end the shift or to take a

40



second meal period, even though 10 hours of work were not yet complete.21 In

the face of this textual ambiguity, we consider the relevant adoption history. (See

Manriquez v. Gourley (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 1227, 1235.)

Evidence in the historical record suggests the IWC‟s meal period language

originally was intended to limit employees to five-hour work intervals without a

meal. In 1943, the first version of the current language appeared: “No employer

shall employ any woman or minor for a work period of more than five (5) hours

without an allowance of not less than thirty (30) minutes for a meal.” (IWC wage

order No. 5 NS, subd. 3(d) (June 28, 1943).) The provision‟s intended function

was to ensure workers were not required to go too long without a meal break; the

IWC found “that it is necessary to insure a meal period after not more than 5 hours

of work in order to protect the health of women and minors.” (IWC meeting

minutes (Feb. 5, 1943) p. 19; accord, IWC meeting minutes (Apr. 14, 1943)

p. 6.)22

At the time, this provision was understood to apply to the work intervals

that conclude shifts, as well as those that begin shifts. In response to a request

from a regulated store that, for shifts running from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.,

employees be permitted to lunch between 11:00 a.m. and noon, i.e., with six hours

21

A third interpretation, that the provision guarantees only the rate at which

meal periods are owed and not the timing of them—one meal period for each five
full hours worked, to be provided as early or as late as the employer chooses—is
advocated by neither party. As our examination of the IWC‟s records, post, makes
clear, it is also not an interpretation the IWC ever contemplated.

22

This was consistent with historical practice, as the IWC had long regulated

both the number and timing of meals. (See, e.g., IWC wage order No. 2, subd.
1(20) (Apr. 14, 1916) [guaranteeing a “noon day meal”]; IWC wage order No. 4,
subd. 1(21) (June 15, 1917) [adding a provision for an “evening meal” on shifts
extending into the night]; IWC wage order No. 3a, subd. 12 (June 4, 1928)
[providing for an evening meal if work continued beyond 7:30 p.m.].)

41



between the end of the meal period and the shift end, the IWC adopted an

exception to the five-hour limit, allowing work periods of up to six hours at the

end of shifts. (IWC wage order No. 5 NS, subd. 3(d) (June 28, 1943) [“However,

if the employee‟s work for the day will be completed within six (6) hours, such

meal period need not be given.”]; IWC meeting minutes (Jan. 29, 1943) p. 15;

IWC meeting minutes (Feb. 5, 1943) p. 19.)

In 1947, the IWC briefly departed from its original formulation, rewriting

the timing requirement to apply only to the beginning of each work shift. (IWC

wage order No. 5 R, subd. 10 (June 1, 1947) [“No employee shall be required to

work more than five (5) consecutive hours after reporting for work, without a meal

period of not less than (30) minutes.”].) In 1952, however, it returned to its

previous approach, adopting language that has been carried forward to today

without significant change.23 (IWC wage order No. 5-52, subd. 11 (Aug. 1, 1952)

[“No employer shall employ any woman or minor for a work period of more than

five (5) hours without a meal period of not less than thirty (30) minutes; except

that when a work period of not more than six (6) hours will complete the day‟s

work, the meal period may be waived.”].) The IWC explained this revision was

intended to expand the right to meal periods from a single break in the first five

hours to one at least every five hours through the day: “ „The meal period

provision was amended to permit a 6-hour work period without a meal when such

a work shift would complete the day‟s work, [with] the additional provision that a

meal period shall be every 5 hours rather than providing only one meal period


23

In 1963, the IWC clarified that waiver of a meal period required mutual

consent, and in 1976 it expanded coverage to men. (See IWC wage order No. 5-
63, subd. 11(a) (Aug. 30, 1963); IWC wage order No. 5-76, subd. 11(A) (Oct. 18,
1976).)

42



within the first 5 hours.‟ ” (IWC meeting minutes (May 16, 1952) p. 33 [adopting

summary of findings], italics added.)

The IWC‟s descriptions of its meal period requirement in the ensuing years

similarly reflected an understanding that work periods before and after meals were

to be limited to five hours absent waiver. For example, the commission,

discussing IWC wage order No. 12-63 (Aug. 30, 1963) (identically worded to

Wage Order No. 5 save for a longer permissible period between meals), explained

that the meal provision “requires the employer to provide meal periods at intervals

of no more than five and one-half hours within the work period.” (Wage Board

for IWC Wage Order 12—Motion Picture Industry, Rep. & Recommendations

(Oct. 21, 1966) p. 6; see also Margaret T. Miller, IWC executive officer, letter to

Klaus Wehrenberg (July 13, 1982) p. 2 [under the IWC‟s wage orders, “meal

periods must be provided „at such intervals as will result in no employee working

longer than five consecutive hours without an eating period‟ ”].)

In 1999, however, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 60 (1999-2000

Reg. Sess.), which among other things repudiated the IWC‟s actions in adopting a

series of wage orders that had eliminated daily overtime. (Harris v. Superior

Court (2011) 53 Cal.4th 170, 177; ante, at p. 32.) Assembly Bill No. 60 repealed

five wage orders, including IWC wage order No. 5-98 (Jan. 1, 1998), and required

the IWC to review its wage orders and readopt orders conforming to the

Legislature‟s expressed intentions. (§ 517; Stats. 1999, ch. 134, § 21, p. 1829.)

It also enacted section 512, which for the first time set out statutory meal period

requirements.

The IWC complied with the directive to adopt new wage orders. Pending

completion of plenary review, it issued an interim wage order applicable to all

industries, including those previously and subsequently covered by Wage Order

No. 5. Notably, the interim order mirrored section 512‟s language, spelling out

43



that a second meal period was required after 10 hours of work, rather than leaving

the timing of second meal periods to implication, as previous wage orders

generally had. (IWC interim wage order—2000 (Mar. 1, 2000) subd. 9.)24 The

IWC also explained its intention that, absent waiver, employees were entitled to “a

thirty-minute meal period for every 5 hours of work” (IWC official notice,

Summary of Interim Wage Order—2000, italics added), a lesser requirement than

the IWC‟s prior view that “ „a meal period shall be every 5 hours‟ ” (IWC meeting

minutes (May 16, 1952) p. 33). From the text of the interim order and the official

explanation, it is apparent the IWC intended a requirement parallel to that of the

Legislature‟s section 512, with a second meal period due after 10 hours, rather

than after an interval of no more than five hours following a first meal period.

Thereafter, the IWC held public hearings and adopted revised wage orders

for each industry, including the current version of Wage Order No. 5, wage order

No. 5-2001. From our review of the text of the various wage orders, the IWC‟s

official explanations of its intent behind these orders, and the transcripts of the

IWC‟s numerous hearings, we conclude the IWC abandoned any requirement that

work intervals be limited to five hours following the first meal break.


24

Subdivision 9 provided: “9. MEAL PERIODS. [¶] (A) No employer shall

employ any person for a work period of more than five (5) hours without a meal
period of not less than thirty (30) minutes, except that when a work period of not
more than six (6) hours will complete the day‟s work the meal period may be
waived by mutual consent of employer and employee. [¶] (B) An employer may
not employ an employee for a work period of more than ten (10) hours per day
without providing the employee with a second meal period of not less than thirty
(30) minutes, except that if the total hours worked is no more than twelve (12)
hours, the second meal period may be waived by mutual consent of the employer
and the employee only if the first meal period was not waived.” (IWC interim
wage order—2000 (Mar. 1, 2000) subd. 9.)

44



With only limited exceptions, the IWC intended its 2001 wage orders to

embrace section 512‟s meal period requirements, not impose different ones.

Having borrowed the provisions of Assembly Bill No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.),

including section 512, for its interim wage order, the IWC simply copied the

interim wage order‟s meal provision into most of its industry-specific wage orders.

(IWC public hearing transcript (June 30, 2000) pp. 7-10 [explaining intent to

mirror Assem. Bill No. 60 on meals]; see, e.g., IWC wage order No. 2-2001

(Jan. 1, 2001); IWC wage order No. 3-2001 (Jan. 1, 2001); IWC wage order

No. 6-2001 (Jan. 1, 2001); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, §§ 11020, subd. 11(A), (B),

11030, subd. 11(A), (B), 11060, subd. 11(A), (B).) The IWC explained that under

these wage orders, first meals would continue to be assured for employees

“working for a period of more than five (5) hours,” while second meal periods

would now be provided “in accordance with Labor Code §512(a).” (IWC

statement as to the basis (Jan. 1, 2001) p. 19; see also IWC summary of

amendments to wage orders 1-13, 15 & 17 (Jan. 1, 2001) [except as specified in

wage order Nos. 4, 5 & 12, employees are entitled to “a 30-minute meal period for

every 5 hours of work”].) Thus, as to the majority of its 2001 wage orders, the

IWC did not intend to impose a different meal period requirement than that spelled

out in section 512; specifically, it did not intend to require employers to provide

employees a second meal period no more than five hours after a first meal period.

These orders and the statute are congruent; under each, a first meal period is

guaranteed after five hours of work, while a second meal period is required only

after 10 hours of work.

The IWC varied slightly the language of wage order Nos. 4-2001 and 5-

2001. These two orders retained the same subdivision 11(A) language requiring a

meal period for every five hours, as in other wage orders, but they omitted the

subdivision 11(B) language used elsewhere to define the conditions for receiving,

45



and for waiving, a second meal period. As we shall explain, this omission was for

reasons related to meal period waivers, not meal timing. The IWC did not intend

in Wage Order No. 5 to depart from the timing requirements contained in other

wage orders or Labor Code section 512.

The IWC had originally modified the meal waiver requirements in wage

order Nos. 4 and 5 in 1993, in response to a health care industry petition to permit

its employees to waive a second meal period on longer shifts in order to leave

earlier. (See IWC petn. 93-1 (Jan. 25, 1993) pp. 31-32; IWC wage order No. 4-89,

subd. 11(C) (as amended Aug. 21, 1993); IWC wage order No. 5-89, subd. 11(C)

(as amended Aug. 21, 1993); IWC statement as to the basis of amendments to

§§ 2, 3 & 11 of IWC wage order No. 5-89 (June 29, 1993).) The IWC later

extended similar waiver rights to all employees covered by these wage orders and

three others, but that extension was among many wage order changes repealed by

the Legislature in 1999. (IWC statement as to the basis, overtime and related

issues (Apr. 11, 1997) pp. 7-8; Stats. 1999, ch. 134, § 21, p. 1829.)

Thereafter, health care representatives persuaded the IWC to at least

preserve expanded waiver rights for their industry, along the lines of those

originally afforded in 1993. (See IWC statement as to the basis (Jan. 1, 2001)

pp. 19-20.) Accordingly, wage order No. 4-2001 and No. 5-2001 each contains a

provision absent from other wage orders, permitting health care employees to

waive one of two meal periods on longer shifts. (IWC wage order No. 4-2001

(Jan. 1, 2001) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11040, subd. 11(D)); Wage Order No. 5,

subd. 11(D).)25 Notably, the waiver provisions permit meal waivers even on shifts


25

Hohnbaum argues that because the right to waive a second meal period was

extended to employees working in excess of eight hours, the IWC must have
contemplated employees accruing a right to a second meal before 10 hours of


(footnote continued on next page)

46



in excess of 12 hours and thus conflict with language in the standard subdivision

regulating second meal periods in other wage orders that limits second meal

waivers to shifts of 12 hours or less (see, e.g., IWC wage order No. 2-2001 (Jan. 1,

2001) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11020, subd. 11(B))). For this reason, the IWC

elected to omit that standard subdivision from these two wage orders. (See IWC

statement as to the basis (Jan. 1, 2001) pp. 19-20.) Because the omission related

to waiver and was not the product of any intent to include different meal timing

requirements in Wage Order No. 5, we interpret that order as imposing the same

timing requirements as those in most of the IWC‟s other wage orders and in Labor

Code section 512.26

Hohnbaum contends he does not seek to require earlier second meal periods

than provided for by section 512 (and, as we have determined, by Wage Order

No. 5); rather, he seeks only to interpret Wage Order No. 5, subdivision 11(A) as

(footnote continued from previous page)

work. The historical record does not support this inference. The language was
originally prepared by industry officials, not the IWC. (IWC statement as to the
basis (Jan. 1, 2001) p. 20.) In public discussion of the second meal waiver
provision, neither in 1993 nor in 2000 did the issue arise of a second meal period
being owed five hours after a first meal period. Instead, discussion focused on
whether health care employees working 12-hour shifts, as opposed to eight-hour
shifts, should be allowed to waive a second meal period. (See, e.g., IWC public
hearing transcript (Apr. 7, 1993); IWC public hearing transcript (Jan. 28, 2000);
IWC public hearing transcript (Apr. 14, 2000).)

26

IWC wage order No. 12-2001 stands in contrast. There, the IWC, in

response to film industry concerns that section 512 conflicted with industry
collective bargaining agreements setting meal breaks at intervals of six hours,
preserved language setting first and subsequent meals at six-hour intervals, rather
than after five hours of work and 10 hours of work. (See IWC wage order No. 12-
2001 (Jan. 1, 2001) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11120, subd. 11(A)); IWC public
hearing transcript (May 5, 2000) pp. 44-50.) Had the IWC intended in Wage
Order No. 5 to preserve timing requirements additional to those provided by
section 512, it could similarly have varied that wage order‟s language. It did not.

47



requiring that first meal periods be timed to prevent work periods, before or after,

exceeding five hours. While we agree that the period before a first meal is limited

to five hours (see § 512, subd. (a)), we cannot agree that the current version of

Wage Order No. 5 limits to five hours the amount of work after a meal.

First, such a reading of subdivision 11(A) in the IWC‟s current wage orders

would render the subdivision 11(B) guarantee of a second meal period after 10

hours of work, included in most of those same orders, superfluous. (See, e.g.,

IWC wage order No. 2-2001 (Jan. 1, 2001) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11020, subd.

11(A), (B)).) We avoid such constructions whenever possible. (Department of

Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Bd. (2006) 40

Cal.4th 1, 14.)27

Second, Hohnbaum‟s argument rests on the contention that as used by the

IWC, “ „work period‟ is a term of art meaning „a continuing period of hours

worked,‟ ” and thus the five-hour “work period” limit in subdivision 11(A) must

preclude more than five hours of continuous work after a meal period. “Work

period” is not defined in any wage order. If the IWC‟s wage orders once

informally adhered to Hohnbaum‟s usage, its 2001 orders no longer do.

Subdivision 11(B) in most of the current orders refers to a “work period of more

than ten (10) hours per day” before a second meal period. (E.g., IWC wage order

No. 1-2001 (Jan. 1, 2001) (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11010, subd. 11(B)).) Any


27

While Wage Order No. 5 does not include a second meal period guarantee

in its subdivision 11(B), that omission is not, as just discussed, the result of any
different intent with respect to second meal periods under the wage order. Most
other wage orders include both a subdivision 11(A) mirroring Wage Order No. 5‟s
subdivision 11(A) and a subdivision 11(B) guaranteeing a second meal period
after 10 hours, and these provisions must be read to avoid surplusage.

48



such work period must have been broken by a first meal period and thus is not “ „a

continuing period of hours worked.‟ ”

Third, there is no evidence the IWC intended to supplement the

requirements of section 512 in the fashion Hohnbaum suggests. The implication is

to the contrary. Having received a legislative rebuke, the IWC sought to make its

orders track Assembly Bill No. 60 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) as closely as possible

and expressed hesitance about departing from statutory requirements. (See, e.g.,

IWC public hearing transcript (May 5, 2000) pp. 52-56.) What departures it made

appear to have been conscious choices, expressly identified in the IWC‟s

statement as to the basis, and frequently justified by explicit reliance on its

authority to augment the Labor Code. (See IWC statement as to the basis (Jan. 1,

2001) pp. 19-20.) In contrast, the prospect of preserving any meal timing

requirement previously implicit in Wage Order No. 5, beyond the requirements of

section 512, was never discussed in the agency‟s 2000 hearings nor in its

publications describing and explaining its 2001 wage orders. In the absence of

any such discussion, we conclude the IWC did not intend to preserve Hohnbaum‟s

posited requirement.28

28

In the ordinary case, proof that statutory or regulatory language was

adopted with a particular intent, and that the adopting body did not thereafter
express a contrary intent, may suffice to show that the language should be
interpreted today in line with that original intent. Hohnbaum develops such an
argument, trying to establish the original intent behind Wage Order No. 5,
subdivision 11(A)‟s language and afford a basis to presume the same intent must
hold today. But the inference Hohnbaum relies on—that this language should be
read today to mean what it meant when adopted—collapses in the presence of
evidence that the IWC in 2000 selected the current language to replicate the rules
enacted by the Legislature in 1999, while preserving an expanded right to waive
second meal periods for certain workers, and in the absence of evidence that it
selected the language to also preserve a limitation on the duration of work after
first meal periods.

49



Accordingly, we conclude that Wage Order No. 5 imposes no meal timing

requirements beyond those in section 512. Under the wage order, as under the

statute, an employer‟s obligation is to provide a first meal period after no more

than five hours of work and a second meal period after no more than 10 hours of

work.

B. Certification of a Meal Period Subclass

We return to the question of certification. The proposed meal period

subclass includes all “Class Members who worked one or more work periods in

excess of five (5) consecutive hours, without receiving a thirty (30) minute meal

period during which the Class Member was relieved of all duties, from and after

October 1, 2000.” The trial court accepted the subclass without modification and

concluded: “Although a determination that defendant need not force employees to

take breaks may require some individualized discovery, the common alleged

issues of meal and rest violations predominate.” Thus, it reasoned that even if

Brinker were correct about the nature of its duties, to treat the case as a class

action would still be the better course.

One aspect of the class definition is notable: It sweeps in not only every

Brinker employee who might have a claim under Hohnbaum‟s failure to provide

meal periods theory, but also every employee who might have had a claim under

the theory that a meal period must be provided every five hours. Consequently,

because we have concluded neither Wage Order No. 5 nor section 512 imposes

such a timing requirement, the class definition as presently drawn includes

individuals with no possible claim.

That aspect of the class definition is notable for a second reason. In an

unusual action requested by the parties, the trial court before deciding certification

issued an explicit ruling on Hohnbaum‟s meal timing theory, agreeing with

50



Hohnbaum that section 512 required a meal period every five hours. That the

meal subclass definition thereafter incorporated Hohnbaum‟s timing theory thus

raises the specter that the certification may have been influenced, in part, by the

trial court‟s legal assumption about the theory‟s merits. Any such assumption

would have been incorrect, given our ruling on the actual requirements of Wage

Order No. 5 and section 512. (See ante, at pp. 37-50.) A grant or denial of class

certification that rests in part on an erroneous legal assumption is error; without

regard to whether such a certification might on other grounds be proper, it cannot

stand. (Linder v. Thrifty Oil Co., supra, 23 Cal.4th at p. 436 [“[A]n order based

upon improper criteria or incorrect assumptions calls for reversal “ „even though

there may be substantial evidence to support the court's order.” ‟ ”].)

Under the unique circumstances of this case, however, we need not decide

whether or not the trial court erred. Our subsequent ruling on Hohnbaum‟s meal

timing theory, solicited by the parties, has changed the legal landscape; whether

the trial court may have soundly exercised its discretion before that ruling is no

longer relevant. At a minimum, our ruling has rendered the class definition

adopted by the trial court overinclusive: The definition on its face embraces

individuals who now have no claim against Brinker. In light of our substantive

rulings, we consider it the prudent course to remand the question of meal subclass

certification to the trial court for reconsideration in light of the clarification of the

law we have provided.

VI. Off-the-clock Claims Class Certification

The third disputed subclass covers “Class Members who worked „off-the-

clock‟ or without pay from and after August 16, 2000.” As with the rest period

subclass, we consider only whether substantial evidence supports the trial court‟s

conclusion that common questions predominate. None does.

51



Hohnbaum‟s off-the-clock claims are an offshoot of his meal period claims.

He contends Brinker required employees to perform work while clocked out

during their meal periods; they were neither relieved of all duty nor afforded an

uninterrupted 30 minutes, and were not compensated. Hohnbaum further contends

Brinker altered meal break records to conceal time worked during these periods.

Unlike for the rest period claim and subclass, for this claim neither a

common policy nor a common method of proof is apparent. The rest period claim

involved a uniform Brinker policy allegedly in conflict with the legal requirements

of the Labor Code and the governing wage order. The only formal Brinker off-

the-clock policy submitted disavows such work, consistent with state law.29 Nor

has Hohnbaum presented substantial evidence of a systematic company policy to

pressure or require employees to work off the clock, a distinction that

differentiates this case from those he relies upon in which off-the-clock classes

have been certified. (See, e.g., Salvas v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Mass. 2008) 893

N.E.2d 1187, 1210-1211; Hale v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Mo.Ct.App. 2007) 231

S.W.3d 215, 220, 225-228; Iliadis v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (N.J. 2007) 922 A.2d

710, 715-716, 723-724.)

Moreover, that employees are clocked out creates a presumption they are

doing no work, a presumption Hohnbaum and the putative class members have the

burden to rebut. As all parties agree, liability is contingent on proof Brinker knew

or should have known off-the-clock work was occurring. (Morillion v. Royal

29

Brinker‟s “Hourly Employee Handbook” states in part: “It is your

responsibility to clock in and clock out for every shift you work. . . . [Y]ou may
not begin working until you have clocked in. Working „off the clock‟ for any
reason is considered a violation of Company policy. If you forget to clock in or
out, or if you believe your time records are not recorded accurately, you must
notify a Manager immediately, so the time can be accurately recorded for payroll
purposes.”

52



Packing Co., supra, 22 Cal.4th at p. 585; see, e.g., White v. Starbucks Corp.

(N.D.Cal. 2007) 497 F.Supp.2d 1080, 1083-1085 [granting the defense summary

judgment on an off-the-clock claim in the absence of proof the employer knew or

should have known of the employee‟s work].) Nothing before the trial court

demonstrated how this could be shown through common proof, in the absence of

evidence of a uniform policy or practice. Instead, the trial court was presented

with anecdotal evidence of a handful of individual instances in which employees

worked off the clock, with or without knowledge or awareness by Brinker

supervisors. On a record such as this, where no substantial evidence points to a

uniform, companywide policy, proof of off-the-clock liability would have had to

continue in an employee-by-employee fashion, demonstrating who worked off the

clock, how long they worked, and whether Brinker knew or should have known of

their work. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal properly vacated certification of this

subclass.

53



DISPOSITION

For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the Court of Appeal‟s judgment as to

the off-the-clock subclass. We reverse its judgment as to the rest period subclass.

Finally, as to the meal period subclass, we reverse the Court of Appeal‟s judgment

insofar as it directed the trial court to enter denial of certification with prejudice.

We remand to the Court of Appeal with directions to, in turn, remand to the trial

court for it to reconsider meal period subclass certification in light of the

clarification of the law we have provided.

WERDEGAR, J.

WE CONCUR:

CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
CORRIGAN, J.
LIU, J.


54













CONCURRING OPINION BY WERDEGAR, J.




I join fully in today‟s majority opinion, which I authored. For guidance on

the issue we remand, meal period subclass certification, I write separately to

emphasize what our opinion does not say. In returning the case for

reconsideration, the opinion of the court does not endorse Brinker‟s argument,

accepted by the Court of Appeal, that the question why a meal period was missed

renders meal period claims categorically uncertifiable. Nor could it, for such a

per se bar would be inconsistent with the law governing reporting obligations and

our historic endorsement of a variety of methods that render collective actions

judicially manageable.

Employers covered by Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) wage order

No. 5-2001 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11050) have an obligation both to relieve

their employees for at least one meal period for shifts over five hours (id., subd.

11(A)) and to record having done so (id., subd. 7(A)(3) [“Meal periods . . . shall

also be recorded.”]). If an employer‟s records show no meal period for a given

shift over five hours, a rebuttable presumption arises that the employee was not

relieved of duty and no meal period was provided. This is consistent with the

policy underlying the meal period recording requirement, which was inserted in

the IWC‟s various wage orders to permit enforcement. (See, e.g., IWC board for

wage order No. 7-63 meeting minutes (Dec. 14-15, 1966) pp. 4-5 [rejecting

1



proposal to eliminate the meal period recording requirement because “without the

recording of all in-and-out time, including meal periods, the enforcement staff

would be unable to adequately investigate and enforce” a wage order‟s meal

period provisions].) An employer‟s assertion that it did relieve the employee of

duty, but the employee waived the opportunity to have a work-free break, is not an

element that a plaintiff must disprove as part of the plaintiff‟s case-in-chief.

Rather, as the Court of Appeal properly recognized, the assertion is an affirmative

defense, and thus the burden is on the employer, as the party asserting waiver, to

plead and prove it. (See, e.g., Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11

Cal.4th 1, 31, 33; Williams v. Marshall (1951) 37 Cal.2d 445, 456.)1


1

As the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) has explained,

even under the less restrictive wage order applicable to agricultural employees, if
“a meal period is not taken by the employee, the burden is on the employer to
show that the agricultural employee had been advised of his or her legal right to
take a meal period and has knowingly and voluntarily decided not to take the meal
period. Again, we emphasize, the burden is on the employer.” (Dept. Industrial
Relations, DLSE Opinion Letter No. 2003.08.13 (Aug. 13, 2003) p. 2 [interpreting
IWC wage order No. 14 (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 11140)].) To place the burden
elsewhere would offer an employer an incentive to avoid its recording duty and a
potential windfall from the failure to record meal periods. Both the United States
Supreme Court and the courts of this state have rejected such an approach. (See
Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 686-688 [where an
employer is subject to a recordkeeping requirement, the burden shifts to that
employer to rebut employee proof of monies owed once a prima facie case has
been made]; Ghazaryan v. Diva Limousine, Ltd. (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th
1524, 1536, fn. 11 [refusing to allow an employer to use any shortcomings in its
records to resist employee wage claims]; Cicairos v. Summit Logistics, Inc. (2005)
133 Cal.App.4th 949, 961 [“ „[W]here the employer has failed to keep records
required by statute, the consequences for such failure should fall on the employer,
not the employee.‟ ”].)

2



While individual issues arising from an affirmative defense can in some

cases support denial of certification,2 they pose no per se bar (see, e.g., Sav-On

Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court (2004) 34 Cal.4th 319, 334-338; Weinstat v.

Dentsply Internat., Inc. (2010) 180 Cal.App.4th 1213, 1235). Instead, whether in

a given case affirmative defenses should lead a court to approve or reject

certification will hinge on the manageability of any individual issues. (See Sav-

On, at p. 334.)

For purposes of class action manageability, a defense that hinges liability

vel non on consideration of numerous intricately detailed factual questions, as is

sometimes the case in misclassification suits,3 is different from a defense that

raises only one or a few questions and that operates not to extinguish the

defendant‟s liability but only to diminish the amount of a given plaintiff‟s

recovery. We have long settled that individual damages questions will rarely if

ever stand as a bar to certification. (Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court,

supra, 34 Cal.4th at p. 334; Employment Development Dept. v. Superior Court

(1981) 30 Cal.3d 256, 266.) “ „In almost every class action, factual determinations

[of damages] . . . to individual class members must be made. [Citations.] Still we

know of no case where this has prevented a court from aiding the class to obtain

its just restitution. Indeed, to decertify a class on the issue of damages or

restitution may well be effectively to sound the death-knell of the class action


2

See, e.g., Soderstedt v. CBIZ Southern California, LLC (2011) 197

Cal.App.4th 133, 151-154; Walsh v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc. (2007) 148
Cal.App.4th 1440, 1450; Block v. Major League Baseball (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th
538, 544.

3

See, e.g., Soderstedt v. CBIZ Southern California, LLC, supra, 197

Cal.App.4th at pages 146-149; Walsh v. IKON Office Solutions, Inc., supra, 148
Cal.App.4th at pages 1454-1456; but see Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior
Court
, supra, 34 Cal.4th at pages 334-340.

3



device.‟ ” (B.W.I. Custom Kitchen v. Owens-Illinois, Inc. (1987) 191 Cal.App.3d

1341, 1354.)

Instead, we have encouraged the use of a variety of methods to enable

individual claims that might otherwise go unpursued to be vindicated, and to avoid

windfalls to defendants that harm many in small amounts rather than a few in large

amounts. (See Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, supra, 34 Cal.4th at

pp. 339-340; Daar v. Yellow Cab Co. (1967) 67 Cal.2d 695, 714-715.)

Representative testimony, surveys, and statistical analysis all are available as tools

to render manageable determinations of the extent of liability. (See, e.g., Bell v.

Farmers Ins. Exchange (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 715, 749-755 [upholding as

consistent with due process the use of surveys and statistical analysis to measure a

defendant‟s aggregate liability under the IWC‟s wage orders]; Dilts v. Penske

Logistics, LLC (S.D.Cal. 2010) 267 F.R.D. 625, 638 [certifying a meal break

subclass because liability could be established through employer records and

representative testimony, and class damages could be established through

statistical sampling and selective direct evidence]; see generally Sav-On, at p. 333

& fn. 6).) “[S]tatistical inference offers a means of vindicating the policy

underlying the Industrial Welfare Commission‟s wage orders without clogging the

courts or deterring small claimants with the cost of litigation.” (Bell, at p. 751.)

Given these settled principles, Brinker has not shown the defense it raises,

waiver, would render a certified class categorically unmanageable. Instead, it

remains for the trial court to decide on remand, in the fullness of its discretion,

4



whether in this case methods exist sufficient to render class treatment manageable.

As to that question, neither the full court nor I express any opinion.

WERDEGAR, J.

I CONCUR:

LIU, J.

5




See last page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion

Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 165 Cal.App.4th 25
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.
S166350
Date Filed: April 12, 2012
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:
Superior
County: San Diego
Judge: Patricia Yim Cowett

__________________________________________________________________________________

Counsel:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Rex S. Heinke, Johanna R. Shargel; Morrison & Foerster, Karen J.
Kubin; Hunton & Williams, Laura M. Franze, M. Brett Burns and Susan J. Sandidge for Petitioners.

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Fred W. Alvarez and Michael D. Schlemmer for TechNet as Amicus
Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Yi-Chin Ho, Michael M. Berger, Benjamin G. Shatz and Andrew L. Satenberg
for Chinese Daily News, Inc., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

William B. Sailer; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, Paul Grossman, Paul W. Crane, Jr., Katherine C.
Huibonhoa and Rishi Sharma for California Employment Law Council as Amicus Curiae on behalf of
Petitioners.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., Julian W. Poon, Kirsten R. Galler, David S. Han,
Blaine H. Evanson; National Chamber Litigation Center, Inc., Robin S. Conrad and Shane Brennan Kawka
for Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America and California Chamber of Commerce as
Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Law Office of Robin L. Unander and Robin L. Unander for California Automotive Business Coalition as
Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Lawrence Foust; Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt and Christine T. Hoeffner for Childrens Hospital Los
Angeles as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Littler Mendelson, Julie A. Dunne, Lena K. Sims, Matthew S. Dente, Richard R. Rahm and Allan G. King
for the National Retail Federation, National Council of Chain Restaurants, Contain-A-Way, Inc., USA
Waste of California, Inc., California Building Industry Association, California Professional Association of
Specialty Contractors, Western Growers Association, American Staffing Association, California Hotel &
Lodging Association and National Association of Manufacturers as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.








Page 2 – S166350 – counsel continued

Counsel:

Mayer Brown and Donald M. Falk for the American Trucking Associations, Inc., and the California
Trucking Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, Richard J. Simmons, Julie A. Dunne and Guylyn R. Cummins for
Employers Group, California Retailers Association, California Hospital Association, California Restaurant
Association, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, National Council
of Chain Restaurants and National Retail Federation as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Fred J. Hiestand for The Civil Justice Association of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Robert R. Roginson for the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and Labor Commissioner Angela
Bradstreet as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Jackson Lewis, Robert M. Pattison, Joel P. Kelly, JoAnna L. Brooks and Timothy C. Travelstead for San
Francisco Bay Area Chapter, San Diego Chapter, Sacramento Chapter, Southern California Chapter and
Employment and Labor Law Committee of the Association of Corporate Counsel as Amici Curiae on
behalf of Petitioners.

Cox, Castle & Nicholson, John S. Miller, Jr., and Dwayne P. McKenzie for the Associated General
Contractors of California, Inc., as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, Lee Burdick and John Morris for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce
as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

Greenberg Traurig, Gregory F. Hurley and Stacey Hertler for National Association of Theatre Owners of
California/Nevada, Inc., as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioners.

No appearance for Respondent.

Lorens & Associates, L. Tracee Lorens, Robert D. Wilson III, Wayne A. Hughes; Cohelan & Khoury,
Cohelan Khoury & Singer, Timothy D. Cohelan, Michael D. Singer, Christopher A. Olsen; The Turley Law
Firm, William Turley, David Mara; Furth, Lehmann & Grant, Furth Lehmann, The Furth Firm, Frederick
P. Furth, Jessica L. Grant; Schubert & Reed, Schubert Jonckheer Kolbe & Kralowec, The Kralowec Law
Group, Robert C. Schubert, Kimberly A. Kralowec; Altshuler Berzon and Michael Rubin for Real Parties
in Interest.

Law Offices of Ian Herzog and Ian Herzog for Morry Brookler and the Putative Brookler Class as Amici
Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Law Offices of Carroll & Scully, Inc., Donald C. Carroll and Charles P. Scully II for California Labor
Federation, AFL-CIO as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Bryan Schwartz Law, Bryan Schwartz; Arbogast & Berns and David M. Arbogast for California
Employment Lawyers Association and Consumer Attorneys of California as Amici Curiae on behalf of
Real Parties in Interest.









Page 3 – S166350 – counsel continued

Counsel:

Bard Seligman for the Impact Fund, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Equal
Rights Advocates, Lawyers‟ Committee for Civil Rights, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center,
Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Public Advocates and Women‟s Employment
Rights Clinic of Golden Gate University School of Law as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in
Interest.

Pope, Berger & Williams and Timothy G. Williams for Gelasio Salazar and Saad Shammas as Amici
Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Clare Pastore and Kevin Kish for Bet Tzedek Legal Services, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of
Southern California, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Centro Legal de La Raza, La Raza
Centro Legal, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, National
Employment Law Project, Stanford Community Law Clinic and Wage Justice Center as Amici Curiae on
behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Locker Folberg, Miles E. Locker; Broad & Gusman and Barry Broad as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real
Parties in Interest.

Weinberg, Roger & Rosenfeld, David A Rosenfeld, William A. Sokol, Theodore Franklin and Patricia M.
Gates for Alameda County Central Labor Council, Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local Union No. 3,
California Conference of Machinists, Communications Workers of America, Contra Costa County Central
Labor Council, Northern California Carpenters Regional Council, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West,
South Bay Central Labor Council and United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Local 5 as
Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Michael L. Smith, Lora Jo Foo and Danielle A. Lucido for Worksafe Law Center, La Raza Centro Legal,
Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Southern California Coalition of Occupational Safety &
Health and Watsonville Law Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Altshuler Berzon, Michael Rubin, James F. Finberg, Eve Cervantez and Danielle E. Leonard for Rogelio
Hernandez as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Cynthia L. Rice, Jennifer Ambacher; Brad Seligman, Julia Campins; Julie Su; Peter Zchiesche; Irma
Herrera; Donna Ryu; Margaret Prado-Alvarez, Matthew Goldberg; Anamaria Loya; D. Micahel Dale; and
Marci Seville for California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, the Impact Fund, Asian Pacific American
Legal Center, Employee Rights Center, Equal Rights Advocates, Hastings Civil Justice Clinic, Katharine &
George Alexander Community Law Center, Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, La Raza Centro
Legal, Northwest Workers‟ Justice Project and Women‟s Employment Rights Clinic as Amici Curiae on
behalf of Real Parties in Interest.











Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Rex S. Heinke
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
2029 Century Park East, Suite 2400
Los Angeles, CA 90067-3012
(310) 229-1000

Kimberly A. Kralowec
The Kralowec Law Group
188 The Embarcadero Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 546-6800

Michael Rubin
Altshuler Berzon
177 Post Street, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94108
(415) 421-7151


Plaintiff filed a putative class action, seeking to represent the cooks, stewards, buspersons, wait staff, host staff, and other hourly employees who staffed defendant employers' restaurants. The operative complaint alleged that defendants failed to provide employees meal and rest breaks. The trial court granted class certification, finding that common issues predominated over individual issues. (Superior Court of San Diego County, No. GIC834348, Patricia Yim Cowett, Judge.) The Court of Appeal, Fourth Dist., Div. One, No. D049331, issued writ relief and reversed class certification as to three disputed subclasses.

The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal as to the off-the-clock subclass, reversed its judgment as to the rest period subclass, and reversed its judgment as to the meal period subclass insofar as it directed the trial court to enter denial of certification with prejudice. The court remanded to the Court of Appeal with directions. The court concluded that trial courts are not obligated as a matter of law to resolve threshold disputes over the elements of a plaintiff's claims, unless a particular determination is necessarily dispositive of the certification question. Because the parties had so requested, however, the court addressed several such threshold disputes. Regarding the nature of an employer's duty to provide meal periods, the court held that an employer's obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done. In light of the substantial evidence submitted by plaintiffs of defendants' uniform rest break policy, 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 this subclass. (Opinion by Werdegar, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Kennard, Baxter, Chin, Corrigan, and Liu, JJ., concurring. Concurring opinion by Werdegar, J., with Liu, J., concurring (see p. 1052).)

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:
Thu, 04/12/201253 Cal. 4th 1004, 273 P.3d 513, 139 Cal. Rptr. 3d 315S166350

Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar
ConcurJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar

Brief Downloads
application/pdf icon
Petition for Review.pdf (3808883 bytes) - Petition for Review (August 29, 2008)
application/pdf icon
Brinker's Answer to Plaintiffs' Petition for Review.pdf (2386979 bytes) - Brinker's Answer to Plaintiffs' Petition for Review (September 18, 2008)
application/pdf icon
Reply to Answer to Petition for Review.pdf (886867 bytes) - Reply to Answer to Petition for Review (September 29, 2008)
application/pdf icon
Opening Brief on the Merits.pdf (6373134 bytes) - Opening Brief on the Merits (January 22, 2009)
application/pdf icon
Answer Brief on the Merits.pdf (6583834 bytes) - Answer Brief on the Merits (May 1, 2009)
application/pdf icon
Brinker's Supplemental Brief Pursuant to Rule 8.520(d).pdf (258720 bytes) - Brinker's Supplemental Brief Pursuant to Rule 8.520(d) (June 2, 2009)
application/pdf icon
Reply Brief on the Merits.pdf (2646137 bytes) - Reply Brief on the Merits (July 20, 2009)
application/pdf icon
Supplemental Motion for Judicial Notice; Memorandum of Points and Authorities and Declaration in Support; Proposed Order.pdf (2290627 bytes) - Supplemental Motion for Judicial Notice; Memorandum of Points and Authorities and Declaration in Support; Proposed Order (July 20, 2009)
application/pdf icon
Supplemental Brief Submitting New Authority, Martinez v. Combs.pdf (798892 bytes) - Supplemental Brief Submitting New Authority: Martinez v. Combs , 49 Cal.4th 35 (2010) [Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 8.520(d)(1)] (July 22, 2011)
application/pdf icon
Brinker's Supplemental Brief Re Wal-Mart v. Dukes and Cruz v. Dollar Tree Stores.pdf (1270198 bytes) - Brinker's Supplemental Brief Re: Wal-Mart v. Dukes and Cruz v. Dollar Tree Stores (July 26, 2011)
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
May 27, 2012
Annotated by Teddy Kider

FACTS:

Five named plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against defendants Brinker Restaurant Corporation, Brinker International, Inc., and Brinker International Payroll Company, L.P. (“Brinker”), which own and operate restaurants in California. The plaintiffs, all past or present nonexempt hourly employees at Brinker restaurants, alleged that Brinker:
(a) failed to give employees rest breaks (or, as a substitute, appropriate compensation) required by law, under Cal. Lab. Code § 226.7 and Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11050;
(b) failed to give employees meal breaks (or, as a substitute, appropriate compensation) required by law, under Cal. Lab. Code §§ 226.7, 512 and Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11050; and
(c) required employees to work off-the-clock during meal breaks and unlawfully altered employee time-keeping records.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

The trial court ruled in an advisory opinion, subsequently confirmed as a court order, that:
(a) simply giving employees one meal period for each work period longer than five hours – without an actual meal period taking place once every five hours – was not sufficient under the law; and
(b) giving employees a meal break during the first hour of a ten-hour shift, without additional meal breaks, would violate the law.
Brinker’s writ petition in the Court of Appeal was denied.

The trial court also granted class certification with several subclasses, including three that are relevant to this decision:
(a) a “Rest Period Subclass,” made up of employees who worked at least one work period longer than three-and-a-half hours without receiving a paid ten-minute break from all duties;
(b) a “Meal Period Subclass,” made up of employees who worked at least one work period longer than five hours without receiving a thirty-minute meal period with no duties; and
(c) an “Off-The-Clock Subclass,” with employees who worked off-the-clock or without pay.
The Court of Appeal granted writ relief and reversed the certification of these three subclasses. The Court of Appeal stated that:
(a) the trial court first had to resolve disputes about the scope of Brinker’s duty to provide breaks, before it could certify the class; and
(b) upon resolving these disputes, any court could only have concluded that certification of these three subclasses was inappropriate.

ISSUES:

(1) Was it necessary for the trial court to resolve disputes over the scope of Brinker’s duty to provide breaks before the court could certify the class?

(2) Under California law, how much rest time must be authorized and what is the proper timing of the rest periods? Did the trial court properly certify the “Rest Period Subclass”?

(3) Under California law, what is the nature of the duty to provide meal periods and what is the proper timing of the meal periods? Did the trial court properly certify the “Meal Period Subclass”?

(4) Did the trial court properly certify the “Off-The-Clock Subclass”?

HOLDINGS:

Issue #1: The trial court did not necessarily have to resolve disputes over Brinker’s duty to provide breaks before it could certify the class.

Issue #2: Employees are entitled to a ten-minute rest break for shifts between three-and-a-half and six hours, a twenty-minute break for shifts more than six hours and up to ten hours, a thirty-minute break for shifts more than ten hours and up to fourteen hours, and so on. The rest periods should fall in the middle of shifts “insofar as practicable.” The trial court’s certification of the “Rest Period Subclass” should not have been reversed.

Issue #3: An employer must relieve an employee of all duties during a meal period, but the employer does not have to ensure that the employee actually is not doing work. Employees are entitled to a first meal period no later than the end of their fifth hour of work and a second meal period no later than the end of their tenth hour of work. The certification of the “Meal Period Subclass” is remanded for reconsideration in light of this opinion.

Issue #4: The Court of Appeal properly vacated certification of the “Off-The-Clock Subclass.”

ANALYSIS:

Issue #1: When certification of a class depends on the resolution of legal or factual disputes, a trial court must resolve those disputes. But “the Court of Appeal went too far by intimating that a trial court must as a threshold matter always resolve any party disputes over the elements of a claim” before certification.

Issue #2: The text of Subdivision 12 of Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11050 “is dispositive” in defining how much rest time must be given, and the “only constraint on timing is that rest breaks must fall in the middle of work periods ‘insofar as practicable.’” Since the plaintiffs “pleaded and presented substantial evidence of a uniform rest break policy authorizing breaks only for each full four hours worked” – a policy that ignores employees’ entitlement to ten minutes of rest for each “major fraction” (or more than half) of four hours, as well – the trial court correctly certified the “Rest Period Subclass.”

Issue #3: Wage orders from the Industrial Welfare Commission “have long made a meal period’s duty-free nature its defining characteristic,” but there is no textual basis in the last half-century for the conclusion that employers have a duty to ensure their employees are not working during meal breaks. Cal. Lab. Code § 512 “requires a first meal period no later than the end of an employee’s fifth hour of work, and a second meal period no later than the end of an employee’s 10th hour of work,” and Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 11050 imposes no additional timing requirements. Because the “Meal Period Subclass,” as certified by the trial court, includes Brinker employees “who might have had a claim” solely “under the theory that a meal period must be provided every five hours” – a theory rejected in this opinion – the subclass has individuals with no possible claim, and the certification is remanded for reconsideration.

Issue #4: “[N]either a common policy nor a common method of proof is apparent” for the “Off-The-Clock Subclass,” meaning “proof of off-the-clock liability would have had to continue in an employee-by-employee fashion, demonstrating who worked off the clock, how long they worked, and whether Brinker knew or should have known of their work.” Therefore, the trial court should not have certified this subclass.

RELATED/CITED CASES:

Fireside Bank v. Superior Court, 40 Cal. 4th 1069 (2007)
Linder v. Thrifty Oil Company, 23 Cal. 4th 429 (2000)
Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35 (2010)
Murphy v. Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc., 40 Cal. 4th 1094 (2007)
Sav-On Drug Stores, Inc. v. Superior Court, 34 Cal. 4th 319 (2004)
Washington Mutual Bank v. Superior Court, 24 Cal. 4th 906 (2001)

TAGS:

Brinker, Superior Court of San Diego County, Hohnbaum, wage and hour, rest break, rest period, meal break, meal period, off-the-clock, class action, class certification, California Labor Code Section 226.7, California Labor Code Section 512, California Code of Regulations Title 8 Section 11050, IWC Wage Order 5-2001, Industrial Welfare Commission, subclass, employment law, major fraction

--Teddy Kider