The Most Important Ten Minutes: The Oregon Court of Appeals Creates a Private Right of Action for Missed or Short Rest Breaks

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The Oregon Court of Appeals has decided that an employee has a private right of action against an employer for unpaid wages if the employer fails to provide paid rest breaks to the employee as required by Oregon law. However, the employee does not have a private right of action

against the employer for failure to provide unpaid meal breaks.

In Gafur v. Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center, 213 Or.App. 343, 161 P.3d 319 (2007), the plaintiffs brought claims against their employer for regular and penalty wages based on allegations that the employer failed to provide paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks. The plaintiffs also alleged a breach of contract claim based on the theory that mandatory meal

and rest breaks were inherent in their employment contract.

Oregon law requires an employer to provide rest and meal breaks for its employees. Employers must provide an unpaid 30-minute meal break and paid ten-minute rest breaks based on the number of hours worked by the employee.

The plaintiffs alleged that because Oregon Administrative Rules entitle them to paid ten-minute breaks for every four hours (or major fraction thereof) worked, and they did not receive those breaks, the employer paid them less than the wages to which they were entitled. The Oregon Court of Appeals held that this allegation, if proved, would establish the employer’s liability to its employees and create a private right of action.

As for meal breaks, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the plaintiffs’ argument.

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